Japanese Garden Ideas – Building Your Own

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Japanese Garden

I don’t know about you, but I love Japanese gardens, both the rock garden style and the more lush traditional type.  The simplicity and tranquility of Japanese gardens help me still my mind after a busy day.  With just a few simple items and plants, strategically placed, you can have an area of beauty and restfullness and it doesn’t take a lot of space to achieve it.

Japanese Rock GardenJapanese rock gardens (karesansui) can go  on a desk, in a small space in a corner of a yard, or can be created to take advantage of a large lot.  It’s up to you how much space you want to devote to yours. They vary anywhere from very austere (rocks and sand only) to ones with a few plants added in. The traditional Japanese garden adds water features, decorations and many more plants.  Whichever type you choose is only limited by your imagination (and budget).

Japanese Rock Garden

Of course, the main item in a Japanese rock garden is ROCK.  The idea is to find ones that are interesting and in varying shapes and sizes, rocks that you wouldn’t mind spend hours looking at.  (After all, Japanese rock gardens are usually used for meditation – you wouldn’t want to stare at something boring for hours, would you?)  Placement is then key – you want to space them to make a visually interesting pattern.  In the most basic style, sand is placed in the shallow bed and raked into patterns to resemble water’s waves, with only the rocks to break the pattern.

Japanese rock gardens are also called Zen gardens because of their use in meditation.  After staring at the garden for a while, your mind begins to ‘expand’ and see things not originally in the patterns. (My own mind does that if I stare at ANYTHING for very long…) The great thing is you can move the rocks (if you can life them) and re-rake the sand to have an ever-changing garden.

Traditional Japanese GardenIf meditation isn’t main your goal, and you want a little more life to your garden, then you might want to go for the Japanese traditional style. 

As you can see on the left, water is a much more prominent feature, be it a pond all the way up to a lake, and the plantings are much more profuse.  However, the plants are usually in monochromes, such as mostly greens, using the plants more for texture rather than color.  Splashes of color are provided by bridges or other decorations, although Japanese cherry trees, in full blossom in the spring, will give you a sudden burst of pinks and whites to highlight your area.  Japanese maple trees do the same, only in the fall, when their leaves turn scarlet.

For complete plans to your own Japanese garden, try these handy do-it-yourself guides:


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