Designing a Japanese Garden

When designing your Japanese Garden you need to think and act a little different then with other types of designs. You will still need to organize and draw out your garden design, and determine the shape of your landscape and what you desire for your garden. But you should also allow yourself to “go with the flow” and let it “speak to you” as your garden takes shape. Allow for improvisation and ideas to emerge rather than being rigid in sticking to your original design plan.

Designing a Japanese Garden We in the west often feel compelled to try to control and plan all aspects of design when making something. We don’t want to make a mistake. Here you need to make your plans loosely to leave more for those ideas that come and the actual design takes shape. This can be liberating for some but intimidating for others. If you work through the questions below it will help you stay on track.

Before any work begins within the yard itself, a basic garden plan should be drawn up to help you formulate your ideas and the placement of elements. Here are several questions you need to address to help with this process:

1. Do you already have an existing garden in the area where you wish to incorporate a Japanese garden style? If so, what type of garden is it (flower garden, English garden, rustic wildflower garden, etc.)?

2. Do you want to try to integrate your current garden into the new Japanese garden plan? What aspects and features do you want to remain and what has to be moved, replaced, or removed entirely?

Designing a Japanese Garden3. What style of Japanese garden are you most interested in – tea garden, courtyard garden, stroll garden, pond and island garden, Zen rock garden or a combination of them? But for small areas, you will most likely want to stick to only one style. For those who have a large area to landscape, you can have your choice of any of the styles which compliment your yard and suit your desires.

4. Does the area you’re designing have natural hills and valleys? Are there any design elements, such a stream, already present? How large is the area you are considering using? Take a good visual view of your selected site and note down all the details on paper. Take measurements as well, so you know the exact area size you will be working with.

5. Which elements and features are important to you? Would you like one small area to feature a Zen garden? Is a stepping-stone pathway which leads to a gate appealing? Do you wish to add a feature like a waterfall, water basin, or a rock arrangement?

6. Will you be building this garden by yourself or will you have help? The size, design and amount of work to create your Japanese garden will obviously affect this answer. For example, building a very large stroll garden by yourself would take a long time and may be impractical. Then again maybe you can plan and do it in stages.

7. If you plan to use large boulders or plant more mature trees (rather than saplings), how will you get them into your garden? Is there room and access for large machinery to help with placement? Keep in mind boulders and large trees are extremely heavy.

8. Will your garden be formal, semi-formal, or informal (rustic)?

Designing a Japanese Garden9. Many Japanese gardens are actually built around a theme. Do you have a theme in mind for your garden? Your theme could even revolve around a smaller replica or area of an original famous garden of Japan. Read books and view photographs of existing gardens to get some ideas. An example of a theme would be a miniaturized version of “The Bridge To Heaven”, which is a marble and stone bridge that spans the famous Dragon Beard Ditch in China. This bridge was built over 600 years ago to allow the Ming and Qing emperors to cross over on their way to the Temple of Heaven.

10. What do you want to achieve with your garden? Will it be used primarily for meditation? Do you wish to incorporate a strolling pathway with new visual delights beyond each curve? Do you want the invigorating sounds of water, such as a waterfall or fast moving stream? Will it be a place to sit quietly and contemplate nature? Understanding the concept behind the garden design is important.

If you carefully contemplate these questions and answer them before you begin to put your design down on paper, it will really help you know how to design your garden. Otherwise you could end up with a garden that holds no meaning for you or your visitors. A Japanese garden should have a “reason for being.” What are your reasons?

Continually developing “ideas for outdoor living”

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This entry was posted on Saturday, March 21st, 2009 at 7:11 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.

44 Responses to “Designing a Japanese Garden”

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  2. jen brister Says:

    These are beautiful! I can’t imagine waking up to one of these garden each day.

  3. Layh Says:

    Thanks for the good info. I would love to design a Japanese garden for my yard and maybe now I will try.

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    The Japanese seem to know design don’t they.

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    I have always admired Japanese gardens but never thought of having one of my own.

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    Not yet. I don’t have a Japanese garden yet but I am going to design my yard into one. They look so peaceful.

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    I really like the look of the Japanese garden I’m just not sure I want it in my back yard.

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