Japanese Gardens – Basic Design Questions

If you want a Japanese garden, you must plan all design aspects according to the principles of zen. You must also understand the concept behind the design of an authentic Japanese garden. Your goal is to create a landscape that reflects symmetry combined with the beauty of simplicity. It’s a place where you can relax, dwell in the serenity that order gives.

Organization is one of the main focuses of a Japanese garden design. This means you have to base the design on the shape of your landscape, and what you desire to see in your garden. Go for the most basic design and allow for improvisation in the future. Don’t put into play more than one focal point. In fact, it’s better if you start with a well-trimmed, clean landscape with the most basic elements.

Do you want your whole garden to be designed in the oriental way, or do you simply want a Zen area where you can meditate?

A garden that incorporates Japanese traditional design can be the best addition to an existing garden. It could also be the basic theme for your whole garden. If you have an existing garden, it may be a good idea to clear an area  to incorporate a Japanese garden style. The trick to building a Japanese garden inside an already established garden design has a lot to do with integration. You can frame the Japanese garden with bushes and determine the elements that need to remain.

What style of Japanese garden are you most interested in?

There are many types of gardens that incorporate the Japanese principle of orderliness. It can be a tea garden, courtyard garden, stroll garden, pond and island garden. Admittedly, a lot of westerners are interested in the Zen rock garden or a combination of two or more garden types.  For very small lots, you should just stick to one style. A larger landscape demands a more complicated design to interest your visitors.

Does your garden have natural slopes and valleys? Are there any streams, a small natural pond or well-established trees that provide shade? One aspect you need to consider is the natural landscape. Drainage plans, plant types, the positioning of rocks and lights are dependent on the natural landscape. It is recommended that you don’t go beyond the limits of your natural geography. This means leave the natural streams, falls, slopes and valleys alone. Simply designing around these elements is the easy and less expensive way to go anyway.

Which elements and features can’t you compromise? Let’s be honest. We all have something we want to incorporate in a garden no matter what. If you must have that feature in your Japanese garden, you must be prepared to let go of other features to avoid overloading your garden in terms of design.

Any Japanese garden you see has a theme. The gardens themselves tell a story. Usually, there is a historical basis for each garden, but yours can simply be “a place where I can meditate and have my tea in peace”. It doesn’t hurt to incorporate miniature Japanese house designs, a small enclosed gazebo with tatami mats, and small plants or bonsai to complete the landscape.

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