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All About Japanese Gardens  

Bring the serenity and beauty of a Japanese garden to your own back yard


So you want to design a Japanese Garden -
Well, what is it you really want?

Is it a true to period Japanese structure, with Mount Fuji in the background!... or an impression of style, elegance, and serenity? Needless to say, we like the latter idea.

We like the idea of dabbling in other cultues...it's nice to take a little of their style and apply it to our own existences. The Japanese style garden is likable because of its serenity, simplicity, and easy maintenance. Japanese gardens they have a style that immediately says something about their creators, and they are not overpowering.


Without going into too much detail and history, the Japanese garden makes artistic use of plants and trees, of rocks, sand, artificial hills (optional), and most always ponds, and flowing water. In contrast to the geometrically arranged trees and rocks of a Western-stvle garden, the Japanese garden traditionally creates a scenic composition that mimics nature, as artfully as possible.


Planning Your Japanese Garden

When considering a location for a Japanese garden you will no doubt be constrained by the type of area you have - you may be really lucky and have unlimited area in which to create your garden sanctuary, but generally, most of us are not that lucky. A popular spot to build a water garden is in the back yard, near a deck or other sitting areas.

Perhaps the simplist way to get started with planning a Japanese garden is to build the garden around a water feature: a garden pond or container water garden if there isn't enough room. if you choose a pond, keep it on the smaller side, and keep it simple.

First, pick a spot spot for your water feature and then build a garden pond (or have one built) or create a container water garden. Keep in mind that moving water is part of the Japanese garden style. Integrate a small waterfall to add the soothing sound of moving water in your garden area.

Place plants and other items around it - maybe enclose the area with a fence, hedge or screen planting?

Look for unusual items that will be placed in our Japanese garden. Answer these basic questions:

  • Will there be fish in the garden? Will they be humble goldfish that will only require a small pond or other water feature, or expensive Koi that will require a larger body of water?
  • Will there be a wooden bridge over your pond or over a stream that connects two ponds?
  • Dining area? A parasol or umbrella for shade?
  • Sitting area?
  • Does the site provide easy access for bringing in boulders and other materials? If not, then consider using smaller, one or two man boulders verses ones that way a ton or two.
  • Is there a need for privacy? If so, will a wooden fence or bamboo screen be used, or plants?

Then review these other items for consideration:

  • Lanterns/Pagodas
  • Statues
  • Birdbaths
  • Fountains
  • Lighting
  • Furniture - dining, parasols, benches, lounge chairs, chairs
  • Wooden bridge
  • Pagodas/Lanterns
  • Statuary
  • Stones for path(s) or patio - should be real stone
  • Boulders/Rocks - should be real stone
  • Planters/Containers

Plants for the Japanese garden:

  • Japanese maples
  • Junipers
  • Ornamental Grasses
  • Hollies
  • Groundcovers
  • Perennials

Japanese Garden Plant & Tree Listing


Do's and Don'ts of Japanese Gardening


  • Overplant - Japanese planting is sparse. We Americans live in a microwave society where we want instant gratification. We tend to want to plant too many plants in a given area. This is not the way things work in the world of Japanese gardening. Resist, resist, leave space. Make every plant, boulder, or item a specimen that stands on its own. Groundcovers will be the only repetitive theme in the garden.
  • Unfortunatley most varieties of bamboo are illegal to sell in Georgia. Many bamboos are highly invasive and very difficult to eliminate once established. If you do incorporate bamboo into your garden area do not overuse it. Plant it in steel or iron tubs as either a sparce vertical accent or low grassy square. An alternative would be to use dried bamboo as a screen or partition.


  • Use plenty of rock - We rarely incorporate enough rock into the landscape. However, small bolders, riverstone, eggrock, and peqa gravel will give punctuation to the plants.


Planting and Plants

Japanese gardens are very important to the Japanese. All of the gardens are representations of nature. The purpose of these gardens is to capture nature in the utmost natural way, and do it with a touch of artistic feeling. Japanese gardens are built for endurance and to withstand and harmonise with the typically wet weather of Japan.

As mentioned, the essential elements to a Japanese garden - water, garden plants, stones, waterfalls, trees, and bridges - create this symbolism.

Trees and plants give the Japanese garden its unique character. The Japanese garden is predominately green with its almost exclusive use of evergreen trees - with the exception of Japanese Maples. When flowering trees are found in the Japanese garden they are usually camelias.

Japanese gardens are mainly stone, moss-like groundcover, bushes, and trees - the Japanese use Azaleas for deep pinks and Cherry trees for pink blossoms in Spring.

The pine tree, Hinoki or Fernspray cypress, or an upright natural looking juniper such as 'Hollywood' (juniper 'Torolusa') stays green during the whole year and, therefore, symbolizes youth and longevity. 'Little Gem' magnolia is another consideration. It is evergreen and produces fragrant flowers from June to November. The plum tree or Japanese Magnolia (Tulip Tree) carries beautiful blossoms in the spring.

A Japanese garden is a quiet place, allowing people to look back and reflect or meditate. In a Japanese garden there is a respect for nature. The understatement and simplicity of design add dignity and grace to Japanese gardens, making a clean and unique statement. These gardens give many impressions to those who appreciate them and they move people in various ways.


Other Resources:

Bowdoin College Website on Japanese Gardens


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