Japanese Garden Design – Styles

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Japanese  gardens are unique, very ordered and havens of peace and tranquillity. They provide a window on a type of gardening and design that stretches back for hundreds of years and is steeped in tradition, history and strict rules to follow for very specific reasons.

A Japanese Style Garden is a design twist on the above. A lot of people just don’t have the time to study the intricacies of Japanese gardens and prefer to opt for a ‘themed’ garden instead. A Japanese garden space enhances every home environment and we have a free design book on creating a Japanese garden that you can download today.

Small spaces are perfect for a Japanese style garden, you do NOT need lots of space. Far from it.

To understand much more about the development of a Japanese style garden it would be worth finding out about their history and the subsequent metamorphosis of early designs into the types of Japanese  gardens that we can see all over the world today both public and private.

Essentially they fall into the following categories:

Pond Gardens – where viewing is often done on the water itself by boat. Tea gardens which are always enjoyed from a path through the garden which leads to the tea ceremony pavilion, house or a gazebo. Sitting gardens are exactly what the name suggests, they are viewed from inside a building or from a veranda for example. In the early history of Japanese style gardens these were very popular with the rich and wealthy who commissioned their construction.

Strolling gardens – are designed so a path will circumnavigate the garden to give many different areas to view the garden from and there are some magnificent examples of these types of Japanese style gardens all over the world today from Japan itself to the United states , Europe and Australasia. Viewers have the opportunity to choose their favourite ‘vistas’ to take in the views and the design.

Another type of Japanese  garden is the Karesansui which is a dry garden that uses Zen techniques to create ‘mimiced’ landscapes and uses ‘dry’ water , this is essentially sand that is raked to look like the sea or a large body of water. It’s very effective indeed. Dry gardens or Japanese Rock Gardens are very popular around the world because of their spiritual and Zen like atmosphere.

Karesansui gardens are heavily influenced by Zen Buddhism so they tend to be peaceful, simple and waterless but there is a very significant use of stones and rocks in a Karesansui garden. This particular type of Japanese style garden is fairly easy to construct in small areas and so is popular with people who want an authentic Zen experience at home. Like this:

My nearly completed Zen garden - in a small space and constructed for comparitively little cost. Why don't you build one?!
My nearly completed Zen garden – in a small space and constructed for comparitively little cost.

Here are a few of the common ingredients together with their Japanese names that are found in Japanese style gardens which I hope you will find useful. Zen symbolism is ever present because of the history and traditions of Japanese gardens.

Stones or Ishi in Japanese are not only used in ‘dry’ gardens or Zen gardens as they have a very significant place in Japanese garden history. There are good stones that are used for their positive effect and there are types of stones that are considered negative and they must never be used in Japanese style gardens. These are called ‘dead’ stones and often are just the wrong shape or size.

Water is Mizu and Shokbutsu is Japanese for plantings. Bridges are called Hashi are they are a very important part of Japanese gardens especially in strolling gardens. Ornaments are Tenkeibutsu , fences and gates are also used in construction and a gate is a crucial part of the entrance to a Japanese tea garden . These types of Japanese style gardens are amongst my favourites as despite their man made construction you really wouldn’t be able to tell as they appear very natural with stepping stones, small clusters of tress and stone lanterns that are so effective and calming.

Japanese style gardens speak volumes because of their serene surroundings and ordered designs. They reflect every season with their tree and plant colurs. Everything in a Japanese garden is there for a reason and to understand the rules and traditions will make a visit far more enjoyable to the soul as well as the eye.

Appreciating their elements will help you decide what type Of Japanese garden you would like at home AND help you understand each individual elements meaning and reason for being in a garden. CLICK HERE for our free design book and our complimentary Japanese garden NEWSLETTER.



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