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As you may be aware, there are several types of Japanese garden and a certain amount of traditional hard and fast rules but, there is absolutely nothing wrong with merging a couple of different types of Japanese garden into one area when you are making a Japanese garden. Japanese garden snobs may frown upon it, but don’t let it cloud your desires or vision. There is NOTHING wrong with this at all.
Learning and understanding at least the basics of Japanese garden design is a must, this will save you time and ultimately your hard earned money but, one thing is for sure if you get a good working understanding of what is required you will find the job a whole lot easier. The other alternative is to identify a space where you would like your garden and call in the professionals. With a little effort you can still do this but you will be armed with the correct information. Look at it like a little bit of enjoyable home work that can save you money in the long run.
There are many styles to choose from when planning a Japanese garden. You may want water- a central pond, bridges, rocks, a relaxation or viewing area, dry water…the list is endless.
Firstly, I would recommend photographing your space and making a drawing of it on a large piece of paper, note the space measurements, land elevations, tree cover etc and then simply start to allocate certain areas on the paper to the Japanese garden ingredients that you wish to include in your garden. Be prepared to move things around on your garden drawing until you get a feel for what you are happy with. As long as you have remembered the basics you should find this fairly easy.
The good news is that average sized yards or gardens are ideal for a Japanese garden. If you have a smaller area a ‘Zen’ garden may be more in keeping with the aesthetics of your space. These gardens were designed and used by Buddhist monks and in general comprise of boulders and rocks and gravel/ or sand. A rake is used to mark the sand for a water effect. Zen gardens are supposed to be places of tranquillity and help ‘clear’ the mind. Meditation is common and effective in a Zen garden which should be viewed from one place.
For Japanese gardens you have numerous choices with many historical and design facets and many of these are easy to grasp and simple to execute but you must acquire knowledge first! Study photographs and designs online and see what catches your eye and use your imagination as to what can go where in your garden space.
Japanese style 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.
To understand much more about the development of Japanese style gardens 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.
Essentially Japanese style gardens 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 style garden is the Karensui which is a dry garden that uses Zen techniques to create ‘mimic’ 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.
Karensui 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 Karensui 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.
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 of Ishi in Japanese are not only used in ‘dry’ gardens or Zen gardens as they have a very significant place in Japanese style gardens 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.
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 gardens speak volumes because of their serene surroundings and ordered designs. Everything is there for a reason and to understand the rules and traditions will make your job of designing and creating that much easier.
For more design tips and a full explanation Of Japanese garden design take a look Russ Chard’s free Japanese garden design book ’11 Simple Ways To Turn Your Garden Japanese’ here is the cover:
CLICK HERE to claim your free copy and Russ’s newsletter on making a Japanese garden in a small space called ‘The Japanese Garden Bulletin’
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