One thing you will notice about any Japanese garden arrangement and design is that it is not symetrical. The plants, fences, rocks, water features, hedges and pathways are planned and placed in an asymetric pattern. This is to gain visual appeal and provide a calming affect – after all, how often do you see trees lined up in a row when walking through the woods? It would appear as unnatural and would certainly not allow for a relaxing stroll.
In this type of garden plan, you will find that the whole area appears spacious and uncluttered, even when built in a tiny space of land. Careful placement of the elements you choose to use is very important. Don’t try to stuff a large number of plants in one space, as it will look crowded and messy. Choose wisely and carefully for aesthetic appeal of the area.
When trying to decide how to place elements asymmetrically so that they look visually appealing – stick to the following general rule. Japanese design usually follows the lines of a scalene triange – in which each side is a different length.
So, in a grouping of stones, as an example, you would place your largest stone first. From the center point of this stone, the other two stones would be placed to create a “balance”, such as if your were on a seesaw with a friend. The middle of the seesaw is the large rock, your friend is heavier than the you are, so he must move closer to the center of the seesaw, while you sit at the very edge in
order to balance the seesaw. So it is with the rocks. The medium size stone must be placed closer to the large center stone, while the smaller rock is positioned farther away to “balance” the scene. This works with plant groupings as well. Groupings of 2, 3 or 5 work best, by the way.
Color used should be understated and somewhat muted, not brilliant and showy. Most ornamental pieces are made from earthenware, stone, timber and granite. Stay away from metals and plastics.
The symbolism in the choice of items and plants is a part of the overall design as well:
- Green pines represent timelessness and longevity. They remain green throughout all seasons – a continuing presence in nature.
- Maple and cherry trees reflect the fleeting nature of life through the changing seasons. These dedicious trees come to life in the spring with their new buds (birth), grow lush and full throughout the summer (growth), then loose their leaves in fall (aging), and appear bare and dead throughout winter (death) – the cycle of life. Japanese Maples are the most popular to plant.
- Flowers remind us that beauty is fleeing and that life is transient.
You will find that many Japanese garden plans incorporate trees and plants that will flourish throughout different seasons. While one type is dying off, another is coming into bloom. Evergreens are also a large component to the design, as they provide a continuing color throughout all seasons, never leaving the entire garden bare.