A Japanese garden may seem minimalist and bare, but designing a real Japanese garden is not a easy job. Every element of its design is carefully chosen and placed to make an appearance of seamless beauty that reflects the natural world beyond the garden walls. It takes time and effort, and a real Japanese garden is never really completed, just as nature is constantly changing.
Just a quick look at the design principles may overwhelm you. There are many styles, an even larger number of rules and meanings for every element, and sometimes contradictory information. On the plus side you will find groups, courses, books and websites which are devoted to the intricacies of producing these spaces.
If you love the design but aren’t quite ready for a complete commitment, you can still incorporate lots of the design principles on your landscape. Read on to see how
Temper balance and symmetry with imperfection. The Japanese maples on either side of the path, besides providing a bright spot of color in an otherwise green landscape, are almost matching in color and positioning but contrast completely in dimension. The lantern and upright boulder match in size and color but differ in form, from the clearly man-made to the clearly natural. Even the color of this Asian-inspired gridded fence matches that of the bark of this tree, and both combine with the delicate colors of this plantings.
Work with what you have. A Japanese garden is intended to replicate the natural world that surrounds it in a smaller space. If your space is level, as here, make a small mound or 2 to include interest, but do not try to turn is into a hillside garden. If, instead, your property is naturally sloped, use this to your advantage and include a waterfall or stream that follows the lay of this property.
Enclose the distance. Since these gardens are a microcosm of the world outdoors, gates and fences play a significant role. Fences create boundaries that set the backyard apart. The trick is to keep these barriers from feeling unpleasant or prohibiting. Fences are simple in design and made to combine with or put off the landscape they enclose. Plantings may hide part of this fence to both soften it and tip at a world beyond, or the fence itself could be painted to blend in the rest of the yard instead of stand out harshly. The opposite approach is the fence that’s opened up in one spot to capture a view beyond the garden itself, maybe a mountain vista or possibly a tree in bloom in a neighbor’s yard. Bamboo is a clear choice for a fencing material, however wooden fences, especially those using a grid layout, will also work.
Zeterre Landscape Architecture
Rather than shutting the world out, gates frequently are created with open gridwork or a lath design which enables glimpses both into and out of the backyard.
A moon gate is a simple way to add an Asian feel to a space as well. Though traditionally the rounded opening would extend from the overhead into the floor, this model is a good, and easily secured, alternative which enables an interesting view into the distance beyond.
Goodman Landscape Design
Decide on the kind of garden you desire. Some Japanese gardens are created as strolling gardens. The rock pathway twists somewhat as it follows the fence line. Surrounded by a minimal floor cover which looks like moss, an often-used floor cover itself, the path disappears at the end of the yard. You will understand, intellectually, that it just goes into the fence, but it seems to continue into a remote destination.
Boulders and mixed plantings line the path in a causal and intermittent mix that creates a sense of balance while still supplying movement through the space. Though the majority of the elements are taken straight out of nature, the dark rock lantern hints at a human existence.
Jobe Corral Architects
A courtyard garden is just another traditional Japanese garden. This one has the standard design elements — gravel, water, accent tree — but with a modern twist. Rather than the usual natural-looking pond and a soft-edge gravel terrace, usually the hallmarks of a Japanese garden, straight edges border the tiered water characteristic and patio.The accent tree is tall but thin, instead of kept low. Even the furniture has a modern look, with all the extended benches and not-quite-nature-inspired green. But the end result is equally as peaceful as a traditional Japanese garden.
Huettl Landscape Architecture
This is a garden designed to be viewed and to take in the borrowed view. The vista from the home is striking, but you’ll receive equally stunning views in the pagoda or the chairs.
The open boundaries make this a modern nod to conventional design, but the principles apply.
U. of Maryland Arboretum & Botanical Garden
Strategy for four seasons. Japanese gardens are designed to be enjoyed yearlong. Because of this, the basic structure of this garden is important. It has to look equally beautiful when stripped of leaves or when covered in snow as it does in the height of summer and spring. And sometimes the beauty of a plant in the winter, like this redtwig dogwood, could even outshine its summer glory.
Next: Elements of Japanese Garden Style