A traditional Japanese botanical garden design is often divided into three main styles: chisen-teien (pond garden), karesansui (rock garden, also known as Zen garden) and roji (simple, rustic garden for a tea house), which exemplifies a simplistic minimalism, tempered by tranquility. A proper Japanese botanical garden design is a place of solitude and relaxation, where each feature accentuates and incorporates nature in all its glory.
Japanese botanical gardens infuse us with knowledge that provokes a sense of wonderment, exploration, and stillness within the human experience. Maybe you love the look of a Japanese garden, but you’re thinking, “I already have a garden. How can I make what I have look more like a Japanese botanical garden without starting from scratch?” Well, you’re in luck because we have compiled 20 Japanese botanical garden design ideas, tips, and tricks so you can enjoy your outdoor space more this summer.
Pruning a mass of plants to look like a flowing landscape has long been popular in Japan. The practice incorporated most effectively into Japanese botanical garden design with Satsuki azalea, a small-leafed variety common in Japan. If done properly, the pruning creates mounded forms that rise and fall in the hummocks and valleys. When the plants come up against a stone or a garden lantern, they wrap around it and seem to embrace it.
If you had to pick one color that’s essential to a Japanese botanical garden design, it would be green. In Japan, if there’s any sort of bright color, it’s one plant at a time. When the plum is in flower, that’s the only thing in flower.
In Japanese botanical garden design, you don’t want uniformity in stepping-stones; quite the opposite. The best stones for this purpose are rounded but have one side slightly flat, to be walked on.
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Stepping-stones have two effects in a Japanese botanical garden design. When chosen for their size and color, they’re like dabs of paint across the canvas of the garden. But, they also act to control the speed with which someone moves through the garden, making the experience slower and more contemplative.
Think of the garden view seen from a nearby room as if it’s a painting. This advice is best heeded when you’re in the Japanese botanical garden design stage, but you can also keep it in mind as you add plantings or make other changes. The trick is to compose the garden in such a way that when it’s seen through the frame of a window or doorway, it’s artfully balanced.
Be aware of this in your garden: When you don’t stuff every corner, individual elements have a chance to shine. Make your Japanese botanical garden design look more authentic by taking things out.
A Japanese botanical garden design follows the dictates of nature. When planning out your design, keep in mind that a Japanese garden is based on natural patterns, rock formations, the way plants grow naturally, the way water moves naturally through a stream valley, the shape of the land.
A Japanese garden is asymmetrical, natural-plant oriented, some areas evoke the essence of a forest or stream valley or wetland, some evoke the feeling of rolling hills.
By the end of the 16th century, the elaborate Japanese tea ceremony was brought from the main house to a small shelter within its own special garden. Visitors walked along a narrow garden pathway called a roji leading to the tea house. In this way, they experienced the garden and along the way, shed their cares and anxieties before entering the spiritual mood of the tea house.
Consider including, in your Japanese botanical garden design, the judicious selection and placement of a beautiful rock or natural element sculpture. The shape, texture, and color are all intentionally chosen to enhance the garden’s overall design.
If you’re moving toward a more minimalist Japanese botanical garden design, consider dedicating a space to a dry garden with no plants at all. Note that these gardens aren’t meant for strolling. They’re considered viewing gardens, and usually placed in a spot where people in a nearby room or veranda can gaze out at it as if it’s a sculpture or painting.
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As for the raking, no special technique is required, but there are many traditional patterns that are meant to replicate the look of waves rippling on water.
Open space, or ma in Japanese, creates the sense of balance that has both movement and stillness. If you are contemplating a Japanese botanical garden design for your outdoor space, resist the temptation to fill in every last corner of the garden.
In part, the beauty of a Japanese garden comes from what happens as its elements age and weather. Moss on a water basin and lichen on a stone lantern are a precious gift that only time can grant. In Japanese botanical garden design, the patina of age is one of its most prized aesthetic additions.
Traditionally, in Japanese botanical garden design, water basins were intended as a place for patrons to clean up before entering a tea room. Today you can add the musical sound of running water to your garden by installing a basin with a recirculating pump and a bamboo spout so water can splash into the bowl or go all out with a waterfall feature. As an added benefit, the birds might flit by for a drink or a bath.
Bonsai is a Japanese word which literally translates to ”tree planted in a pot”. However, the meaning of Bonsai is much more than that. When Japanese monks made pilgrimages to China they brought these miniature potted trees back to Japan as gifts, and it evolved from there. Bonsai was the ideal art for Japanese culture, reflecting reverence for beauty and nature.
When you think about it, much of the traditional Japanese botanical garden design aesthetic incorporates open or empty space. You see it not only in gardens but also in the region’s paintings and flower arrangements. Being unfinished isn’t a bad thing.
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Even the tiniest green spaces can be designed in such a way to evoke the imagination or provide viewpoints where its visitors can feel secure and inspired, so get outdoors and create that Japanese botanical garden you’ve always dreamed of.