How to build a japanese garden in a small space
Making a Japanese style garden is the dream of many people but is often viewed as too difficult and intricate.
Japanese gardens are reflections of life and come in many forms with vastly differing features. For example some use water, some are flat, some are hilly, others are for walking around and viewing whilst those with a ‘Zen’ feel are hugely popular.
First up, you need to decide what sort of Japanese style garden you would be interested in having at your home then depending on the size of space that you have pick a ‘Theme’ and the ingredients to match.
So, for example if you wanted a gravel and rock garden (sometimes referred to as a Zen garden) and only have a limited amount of space then you would choose smaller gravel and stones to represent islands in a ‘Sea’ of gravel – the gravel symbolises water.
Here is an example for you:
This Japanese garden is beautifully designed. It has the gravel which is raked but contained within a square edge symbolising the sea. The gravel is raked around the stones – they symbolise islands – showing the movement of the water.
Around the edge are a whole host of low level shrubs looking like dwarf forests.
This sort of garden takes a little effort but is not that difficult to do.
Everything has to be in some form of proportion. This garden is a landscape so the stones have to be the right size to give the right aesthetic effect.
It is best with this type of garden to draw a plan and get a real feel as to how it will look.
Something like this, one I did for a small Zen style garden at my home.
It doesn’t matter if you change your final garden from an original plan, it’s important to jot down some ideas and get a feel for how your Japanese garden will look. By knowing the dimensions you will be able to work out how much gravel you will need and how many shrubs or trees you will require to make your design come to life.
Here’s an example of a full plan I drew up for my entire Japanese garden area including my gravel and stone garden.
As you can see the gravel garden is on the far left and a ‘Dry’ water river which is made of stone laid in the right way to show the flow of the river goes up a slight slope to another raised rock garden.
By planning out your Japanese garden it will give you reassurance on your vision and help you see whether what you are planning is feasible or too ambitious or maybe not ambitious enough.
‘Zen’ style gardens are the easiest to create BUT only if you get all the ingredients in direct proportion otherwise it will look out of kilter.
Here is the gravel area ( the Sea) when we dug it out, edged it with granite slabs and laid an anti weed cover.
And here it is from above – if you refer back to the full garden plan above – the hill with the dry river is to the right of the gravel/ sand area meandering ( like a river) through the trees and shrubs.
I did change the sand to bigger gravel as in certain damper climates sand is very difficult to keep pristine and rake in the correct way. Below is a picture of the rocks that I used and the gravel I chose.
The gravel is 10mm in size and to fill this space to a depth of 5 centimetres took around 20 bags. Always buy some spare for repairs and replacement.
You may not be interested in a rock garden and have a dream of a more complicated Japanese garden. Japanese gardens are at one with nature and should always be created to look good in any season.
Trees, plants and shrubs need to be chose carefully. An understanding of a little of the history of Japanese gardens is preferable and well worth spending some time finding out about them.
You have a lot of ingredients to play with – Stones, Rocks, Shrubs, Trees like Azaleas, colourful plants like Camelias, Hosta’s, Bridges,Boundaries, Stone pathways, Stepping stones, Tea house,Bamboo, Lanterns and Ornaments the list goes on.
To make your dream of having a Japanese garden a reality you can seek professional help ( Expensive) or you can rise to the challenge of doing it yourself using your imagination and design skills. The thrill of completing a Japanese garden is memorable and it will last you a lifetime.
Start small and add areas to it as you become more confident and experienced. When you look out of a window and see your garden and the admiring looks it gets from friends and family you will fully appreciate how worthwhile a thing it was to do. A calm stress free haven where you live to relax and enjoy.
We have put together the ULTIMATE package for creating a Japanese garden including a free design book, a classic lecture on types of Japanese gardens and some of their history, 4 audio interviews with experts in the fields of design, Acers / Maples and even Japanese garden photography, A before and after project for you to follow, a Report on Plants, shrubs and Trees in Japanese gardens and an ACTION PLAN to guide you through the process of planning, building and completing your project.
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Click on this link to watch our short Slideshow BuildingaJapanesegardeninasmallspacePowerponit_slides
Every few weeks we release a new ‘Turn Your Garden Japanese Podcast’ . This is episode 6 in the series designed to help listeners understand Japanese gardens and help them when making a Japanese garden.
This episode of the ‘Turn Your Garden Japanese Podcast’ is all about one of the most important elements in Japanese gardens and Japanese Zen gardens STONES & ROCKS.
If you ever wondered why a Zen garden is like it is OR what they mean and their historical background then my monthly Podcast should interest you as the latest episode is all about Japanese Zen gardens or Karesansui gardens as they are known in Japan. You can listen to it for free ( of course!) by clicking on the player below:
Zen gardens come in all shapes and sizes but follow very rigid principles.
They can be built in a large or small space and are ideal for meditation. Peaceful sanctuaries in a hurly burly world.
The smallest one that I have seen was actually so tiny that it fitted in an egg shell! Other Zen gardens that you may have seen include the small desktop ones that people like to have to keep them stress free at work for example.
Nice as they may appear it is much better to make a Japanese style garden in a slightly bigger space.
In Zen gardens wooden dowling rakes create swirls and shapes that are used to create the illusion of water in ‘dry’ water lakes and seas usually made of sand or gravel.
Zen gardens typically imitate actual landscapes. You will see from the picture above how the land and ‘sea’ replicate an actual panorama of landscape. Sometimes in Japanese gardening this principle is used and it is called ‘Borrowed scenery’ – the copying of real or for that matter imaginary landscapes.
Got a small area in your yard or a roof terrace? Why not create your own ‘Zen’ space? It’s easier to do than you think!
Our book ’11 Simple Ways To Turn Your Garden Japanese’ will give you lots of inspiration and ideas to really invigorate an unused area in your yard or garden. CLICK HERE to claim your copy today…and of course a big part of it is how to create a stunning Japanese Zen garden!
The ultimate way to create a Japanese garden in a small space!
Thanks for stopping by our Japanese garden blog.
We have a free podcast that is published every 3 or 4 weeks on all sorts of aspects of Japanese gardens and Japanese gardening at home in a garden or yard.
Boundaries are very important in a Japanese garden or a Zen style garden and this edition of the podcast is all about the importance of boundaries in a Japanese garden – essential to distinguish the garden itself from the outside world.
Take a listen here….
To get more help, ideas, tips and practical examples on how you can easily and quickly create a stunning Japanese garden space at home please take a look at our design book ’11 Simple Ways To Turn Your Garden Japanese’. CLICK HERE
The latest edition of the ‘Turn Your Garden Japanese Podcast’ is available for you to listen to right now.
This Episode ( as they are called in the world of Podcasting!) is all about OBSTACLES to creating a small Japanese garden space and HOW to re-think those objections and ultimately overcome any negative thoughts about making a Japanese garden at home being too much of a hassle or TOO expensive.
Its a negative to positive listen! You will like it…..
Your yard may look like this….
But IT COULD look something like this …
Yes, it is the drab yard above completely redesigned in a Japanese style! It really is amazing what can be achieved on really very modest budgets when making a Japanese garden.
LISTEN to the podcast HERE and then try our FREE book ’11 Simple Ways To Turn Your Garden Japanese’ it can be yours in the next few minutes to hopefully inspire you to have your own Japanese style garden at home.
In a Japanese garden and its design principles you will often hear about ‘flow’. A Japanese garden has to be something with a clean and crisp visual appearance and ‘flow’ – this is so everything appears to naturally follow on in the viewers eyes. Think of it as ‘visual tidiness’.
Edging is used in all sort of gardens all over the world but in a Japanese garden , when placed properly and with the right materials, it can really be highly effective. You could have a borderline between the garden and other parts of your space if you are just utilising a small area. A borderline can also be used to give paths an edge too.
In a Japanese garden you can use all sorts of edging materials. Cast stone, Bamboo, edging stones, slate, bricks and even an iron fence.
Slate because of its different shades will provide clean lines in your project when making a Japanese garden. Terracotta is also one of the top edging ingredients used because of its shade of colour. Stone can be used for edging a pond or a smaller building.
In a Japanese garden gravel can be used as either a pathway OR as a border to give a distinguishing line between areas. The use of bricks is becoming more common in Japanese garden design and not as a straight line laid out going one way or another. Bricks can be laid in all sorts of ways to make the garden interesting – so do not be afraid to experiment.
Concrete can be moulded easily for any kind of edging look that you want to achieve. River rock gives a totally natural feel to eding and cast stone is sometimes used as an alternative for natural rock.
Edging with bamboo is a way of creating some intricate edging for the garden. Simply, cut the can of the bamboo to the height that you want and bury in the ground for quick and effective results.
Sometimes, metal fencing is added to Japanese gardens as some people feel that its addition adds a certain amount of elegance.
CLICK HERE for our FREE Japanese Garden Design book ’11 Simple Ways To Turn Your Garden Japanese’
Japanese gardens are famous for their peace and tranquility so remember the colour and style of the edging that you choose NEEDS to match and follow the natural flow of the garden. A couple of good tips – a Japanese garden is all about nature, so when making a Japanese garden if you do some edging with rocks don’t make them all the same size because in nature that simply wouldn’t happen. Spread the rocks around in different sizes. The same goes with trees or shrubs – think NATURAL in your design thoughts and you should find that the ideas flow quickly and naturally for your design.
Here are some images of edging in a Japanese garden.
’11 Simple Ways To Turn Your Garden Japanese’ our FREE book to get you started! Get your copy HERE