The basic fundamental principle of a Japanese garden is the effective capture and display of natural themes. What this means is that when designing a great Japanese garden, you need to focus on creating things that look natural and not man-made. Every element of such a garden is based on reality. Nothing that can’t be found in the wild should be included in a Japanese garden.
For example, such things as square ponds, fountains, artificial materials and advanced technology are inappropriate as one cannot locate them in a natural setting. To make a Japanese garden work, you must yourself work within the limits that nature sets.
Another standard feature of a Japanese garden is the appearance of recreating a large-scale setting, even in a small area. When striving to recreate a landscape in your yard, it is important to keep everything within a similar scale to avoid unusual or out of place creations.
For example, when attempting to capture a landscape you can use small rocks or boulders to represent mountains, collections of small green plants to represent a forest, or even a portion of raked sand to represent an entire ocean. It is through designing such small-scale natural features that you begin to capture the spirit of a true Japanese garden.
Another trademark feature of a Japanese garden is the presence of empty space. This is done to emphasize the features located near or around it. It is not a feature often used in Western gardening, which most often emphasizes filling every available inch of space with plants and flowers.
Yet another trademark feature of the Japanese garden is that it is maintained and enjoyed throughout the year. Unlike western gardens, which are abandoned in the late fall and ignored throughout the winter, Japanese gardens are designed to highlight every season. Winter, in particular, is still a popular time to enjoy a Japanese garden. Snow collecting on branches are referred to as “snow blossoms” and make for great viewing.
Suggestions for Building a Japanese Garden
If you decide to create a Japanese garden, it is best to study the various concepts of their traditional design. Many books and websites are available on the subject, and it can be invaluable to learn about the various historical and theological concepts behind how a Japanese garden is designed and presented.
Once you have a good understanding of the spirit of your project, the planning phase is the next most important part. You need to determine where everything will go, the types of materials you wish to use, and how many resources you have available to allocate towards your project.
Space is important to consider. A small garden means you are limited to working in a very specific area, so working with large items is not advisable. If you have a very large space available, you are really only limited by your own budget and imagination.
Materials are of the utmost important. Remember above how we mentioned that nature is the central theme of a Japanese garden? This means that you must avoid concrete, metal and visible electronics. None of these are naturally-occurring, and therefore are inappropriate for placement.
You’ll find that working with natural materials is easier and more entertaining than lugging around concrete slabs or trying to get electric torches and lanterns working properly. Wood and stone are your chief allies for this project. Use stone to create walkways or to line borders of flower beds. Use wood to create fences, posts, gates or as edging along beds to maintain your natural look.
If possible, try to select species of plants native to Japan. The Japanese maple, for example, is a great species to plant in your yard. Chrysanthemums are a species of flower that has historical significance in Japan.
Additional Suggestions for Creating a Japanese Garden
You can often find many sources of information and inspiration at your local garden center. Take any drawn or written plans you’ve made along with you so that you can conference with employees to determine what is most suitable for your goals and requirements. By walking around the center you can often find creative inspiration by examining pre-made wooden or stone items.
In the end, you may wish to hire a professional landscaping company to complete your project. Make sure they are familiar with the concepts of making a true Japanese-style garden. A firm that specializes in Asian gardening might be your best bet, if one can be locally found (and is affordable).
Once you are complete, you’ll have created something that you and your family will be proud of. Being able to come home from work and spend time in your relaxing garden will help cut stress and improve your mood. It can also be a great place to meditate, and will ultimate make you much happier about living in your current home.
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