Japanese Garden Styles – Which One Is The Best For You?

Japanese gardens have become popular choices when choosing to landscape a yard. The entire garden concept is designed to create an experience, invoke feelings and provide a haven where one can be relaxed, calm and peruse inner-thoughts. Therefore, it is important that the rocks and plants meld together within the landscape, and that the relationship and placement between rocks, plants and water is well thought out within the design.

There are several different types of landscaping designs that you can choose from to initiate ideas and begin the process of planning out your own unique garden. Keep in mind that you are not limited to just one style platform. Many Japanese gardens are combinations of two or more of the following types melded together, should you have enough room on your site to do so. Here is a brief description of each so that you can better plan your own garden layout.

Pond and Island Style

With this type of design your goal is to create a central pond which is either large enough to go boating upon and/or one in which you can stroll around the edge of the pond. The ‘Pond and Island’ layout is designed so that all plants, rocks and other features on the shore are seen from the pond area. The background plantings and elements are placed so that they blend into the natural landscape beyond the garden. Small islands are created within the pond, where a bush or tree is planted surrounded by rocks on the ‘island shore’, as visual focal points. Small bridges can also be built to span the water from a point on the shoreline to one or more of the ‘islands’ and then back to shore again on a different side of the pond. This allows the stroller to view the surrounding area from the pond itself (a good tactic if you don’t have enough room to install a boating pond).

Dry Landscape Zen Garden

The Zen garden was primarily used by Buddhist monks within their temples. The landscaping is comprised of a combination of boulders, large and small rocks, gravel or sand, and on occasion, moss or very sparsely planted trees or shrubs (usually only one or two plants are seen). The rocks symbolize islands and consist of unique shapes and sizes, which are very carefully positioned. The gravel or sand symbolizes water and is raked into various patterns.

The idea behind this garden is to help the viewer clear their mind and aid in contemplation and meditation without distractions. The Zen garden is not entered (other than to rake the gravel), but is viewed from a single focal point, such as from a raised deck, balcony or through the windows of a building.

Japanese Tea Garden

The tea garden is actually more of a ceremonial area in order to perform a Tea Ceremony. Consisting of two gardens in one (an outer garden and an inner garden), it is a good choice for average size yards or incorporated within a larger Japanese garden design. It is also one of the more popular styles to create. The outer garden is more informal in plantings and consists of an entry gate and a stone path leading toward the inner garden. Visitors pass through a second gate where a water basin is located and is used as part of the ceremony. Another stone path flows through the inner garden, whose plants are more formally placed and not flowered, so as not to provide any distractions along the journey. The inner path leads to a small building where the actual tea ceremony is performed. This entire garden concept requires much more information that can be relayed in a short paragraph. If you wish to learn more about building your own Japanese Tea Garden, please see the links at the end of this article.

Stroll Gardens

Japanese stroll gardens are designed as a walk-about landscaping plan. Paths lead the visitor through the area with each twist and turn revealing a new sight. Most of these gardens focus on a theme of some landscape found in nature and then are recreated in miniature within the garden itself. To properly build such a garden design you would need at least an acre or more of land to work with so you can incorporate hidden vistas and scenes to delight the stroller when they make a new turn in the path, as well as hide the previous scene from view. Often times, a tea garden and or a pond are also integrated within the stroll garden.

Courtyard Garden

This is a perfect solution for a small yard, especially one that is enclosed with a stone or brick wall or wooden fence and is very limited in space. The design of the Japanese courtyard garden is kept simple and is usually built to be observed from inside the house, although you could build it so it is useable outside as well if it is carefully planned out. Consisting of a few plants, perhaps a tree, small water feature, often times a dry stream, or other simple elements, this Japanese garden style allows nature and light to flow into your home via large windows and patio doors.

Research the Best Garden Design for Your Yard

The above is a sampling of the basic Japanese garden types used to give you some ideas on what you may wish to create for your own yard. As noted, you can choose one or a combination of styles to suit your purpose. What is most important though, is to determine what you wish to achieve with your garden. Japanese gardens are intended to create an experience for the visitor. It is suggested that you read garden books, view pictures of the gardens found in Japan, and research the concepts behind the intent of these unique areas before you begin your own landscaping. Then you will have the tools to construct a beautiful, serene and amazing landscape that will be enjoyed for years to come.

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