Japanese Garden Design: The Practical Use of Stones and Boulders

Have you ever seen an authentic Japanese garden? The art of the Japanese garden is a 1,500-year-old landscape design tradition that is still evolving today. There is a variety of elements used throughout a Japanese garden, but the three most important and basic ones that you will find in every garden design are: rocks, plants and water features. There are more elements but you will find that these are the main ingredients.

Japanese Garden DesignRocks, plants and water are the unifying elements in Nature and are therefore of the most importance. Rock reflects strength, stability and endurance. The placement of these and other stones in the garden enhances the feeling of safety and the security one needs in order to relax. In this article, we are going to focus on rocks, a very visible and useful Japanese garden element that has many viable and practical applications, along with its aesthetic qualities.

1) Stones and boulders can be helpful in defining a pathway. A rock grouping set along a turn in a path provides visual interest and guides the stroller along the proper course. They can also encourage people to slow down and reflect on the arrangement, making the walk more enjoyable.

2) Rocks can make a wonderful backdrop for plants. An angular or vertical rock can make a unique backdrop for a plant grouping. When placing the rock make sure it is far enough back from the plants, in order to provide depth perception and allow the plants to be the focus.

Japanese Garden Design3) Interesting rocks can create interest where plants are hard to grow. Sometimes there will be a particular area in your garden where plants just don’t seem to do well. Maybe it’s too wet or the soil is just not good. Whatever the problem, a nice rock arrangement might do the trick.

4) Use rocks to enhance a water feature. Rocks placed near ponds make the area more natural looking and visually appealing. Next to a water basin, a smooth, flat stone could be used for kneeling down to the basin. A larger stone could be used as a place to sit for a bit. They can also be used for defining a stream. As in nature, rocks are always found along streambeds as nature uses them to prevent erosion.

Japanese Garden Design5) Large boulders can block things from view. For example, perhaps some utility equipment, such as your water hoses, is near your patio and you don’t want it visible to visitors. A large boulder and complimentary bush could be used to disguise it, yet allow you access to use it as needed.

6) Rocks can be used to block off a portion of the garden or path. You can use stones to block off an area you don’t want visitors to enter. Boulders form a great natural barrier, but it must be made interesting or it will detract rather than enhance your yard.
7) Rocks are wonderful for securing slopes and for use as retaining walls. Boulders and good-size stones make excellent, natural materials for use in low retaining walls. Flat rocks can be used on slopes to make an attractive set of steps.

Japanese gardens are popular now because they fit well in small spaces. And they are perceived as being low-maintenance though this is not exactly true. Gardens made in the authentic Japanese style are rare outside Japan so you could say most of the gardens we think of as Japanese are English gardens talking with a Japanese accent. If you are looking to adapt some Japanese style for your yard, stones and boulders are helpful components as you can see that they have many feasible and functional applications. Their artistic qualities are also wonderful in the Japanese rock garden designs.

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This entry was posted on Saturday, August 22nd, 2009 at 2:09 pm and is filed under Ideas. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

14 Responses to “Japanese Garden Design: The Practical Use of Stones and Boulders”

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