Japanese Landscape Gardening

Japanese gardens are known for their calm, clutter-free space, wherein each element has clarity of purpose.

Japanese Landscape Gardening

Japanese Landscape Gardening: An Oasis of Tranquillity


It is not so surprising that a landscape gardening enthusiast, who is more exposed to lush green lawns and colourful blooms, may be wary of the concept of a planned landscape that embodies the beauty of nature by using a minimalist touch. Without the basic understanding of this cultural approach, the initial idea of a garden without a good number of plants to fill the space may take some time to get used to.

Japanese gardens are known for their calm, clutter-free space, wherein each element has clarity of purpose. The overall garden design captures the natural forms of elements, while promoting a perfect harmony of emotions between man and nature.

The contemplative and meditational atmosphere that can be found in a Japanese garden is, in fact, a product of the Shinto and Zen Buddhist teachings. While Shinto underlines respect for nature, Zen Buddhism turns to meditation to achieve personal enlightenment. In earlier times, the gardens were primary built around temple buildings to help Buddhist monks in their religious advancement through meditation.

Key Elements of a Japanese Garden

One way to recognize a Japanese garden is by the key elements found in the landscape. These are incorporated in the garden design to undertake the art of symbolism and to present an idealized view of nature even on a limited space.

Rocks of different sizes, shapes, and textures are strategically placed around the garden to provide balance and serve as focal points. Each rock has a purpose and is not laid out randomly.

White sand and gravel are raked in patterns to mimic the flow of water or the movement of the clouds. Since its colour represents purity, it was believed that the space that they occupy is worthy of a visit from the gods. To prevent ordinary visitors from modifying the patterns, stepping stones are strategically laid out at crossing places.

Water always exists in a Japanese garden, whether in its real form or represented by the sand or gravel. From a Buddhist belief, the flow of a pond or stream should start from the north side of the garden to the south in order to attract good fortune. Water and rock complement each other, thus, they should not be far apart.

Scenery Techniques

Japanese landscape gardening utilizes four techniques to present a scenery.

Reduced Scale is where naturally occurring elements in nature are reproduced on a smaller scale. A good example is having two ponds connected by a stream and a cascade to transform into a miniature waterfall.

The most common scenery technique utilized in the garden is the Symbolization. This approach is heavily used in a Karesausui type of Japanese garden. White gravel lends the illusion of water current while mosses are used to depict the other bodies of water in abstract form.

The Borrowed scenery technique takes advantage of the scenery outside the garden such as temples or mountains. Thus, distant landscapes are taken into consideration during construction to make it appear that it is part of the garden.

On the other hand, the ‘Hide and Reveal’ technique uses bamboos, fences, winding paths or other structures to hide scenery. This is to ensure that only from the best view point can the carefully composed scenery be seen.

Signature Details

With the key elements in place, you can then add other details in the landscape such as trees, flowers, stone lanterns, and even a short bridge to follow closely an authentic Japanese garden design. Make sure to leave enough empty spaces when completing the look of the garden.

There are many Japanese varieties of dwarf trees and shrubs that you can choose from. The most commonly used ones are conifers and pines. The trees can be trimmed into picturesque shapes to make them even more attractive.

Flowers can be planted according to the season or due to their religious symbolism. Chrysanthemums, iris, and ferns are some of the usual choices in the garden.

Creating a Japanese garden that you can escape to everyday is simply pure bliss. It subtly reconnects you to the beauty of nature while transforming you to an oasis of tranquillity.

About the Author

Julian SandellJulian is passionate about creating beautiful and functional outdoor spaces for clients to enjoy with family and friends and is actively involved with each project, from the initial consultation and design phase, through project management and construction to the final planting and landscape maintenance. From inspiration to installation, Julian and his team will guide you through the process, creating a garden that reflects you, your home and your lifestyle. Follow Julian on Facebook, Twitter and Google+!View all posts by Julian Sandell

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