Create a Japanese Garden Introduction:
So you have decided that you would like to build a Japanese garden in your backyard, but maybe you are just not quite sure where to start. That's ok, a lot of people are daunted by this particular project so let us see if we can help you get off to a nice start. The most important part of a project of this type is to take your time and think things through carefully. Nothing can ruin a project faster than a poorly thought out and implemented concept.
Trying to create a Japanese garden is not impossible, but on a scale of 1 to 10, I would give it a 7 or 8 on the challenge level because it requires more than just randomly placing plants and stones around the garden. Japanese gardens are heavily symbolic and just about every element to the garden has a meaning. This is where the planning stage of a project such as this one becomes of significant importance. A well planned garden will be a well appreciated garden when it is finished.
Create a Japanese Garden - Site Location:
The first thing you need to do to create a Japanese garden is choose the setting where your new Japanese garden is going to go. How much space you dedicate to it is ultimately going to determine what elements you can place within it. There isn't really a golden rule as to how big or how small the garden should be. You should pick a site where you will be comfortable with it, and one that works for all the elements you would like to include.
A small site that is stuffed with too many elements will most likely look ridiculous, whereas a large site with minimal effects will look barren and meaningless. There are a few basic materials you will need to consider in your planning and we can list them here, and then give you a brief explanation of each one's symbolism within Japanese gardening. You will want to incorporate large rocks and stones into your design, as well as various Japanese trees, shrubs, and blooming plants. Water features such as ponds and fountains are also popular, along with traditional Japanese style furniture and architecture.
Elements to Create a Japanese Garden:
What makes Japanese gardens significantly different from other garden styles is that every one of these specific elements is intended to represent something. Ancient Japanese gardens were designed to be expressive in and of nature itself, many times the gardens were re-creations of real places, in idealized form. The rocks and stones almost always symbolize mountains and hills because of their unmovable nature. It is also said that they could represent human traits such as endurance and strength. The plants and trees that you decide to place in your garden should symbolize nature itself and all it has to offer. These are typically chosen based on their blooming season, and should instill a sense of peace and tranquility into the garden.
The pond or fountain, should you decide to go with one, can be used to symbolize purity and the flow of life; one's chi as it were. In learning how to create a Japanese garden, water features are always made to look like they are part of the natural scenery and they can be used to tie other elements together in larger gardens. If you are fortunate enough to have a large parcel of land to dedicate to the project, you could create small islands within a large pond, and use traditional Japanese style bridges to connect them.
The final piece of the design would be the furniture and other decorations. Since Japanese garden designs were intended to look natural, these should only be added in small amounts. Lanterns were frequently used in Japanese garden design, as well as water basins (especially if you incorporate a tea house into the design), but too much decoration will end up detracting from the overall look of the garden itself, so be careful not to overdo it in this area.
Ideas to Create a Japanese Garden:
Now that you have the basic idea of the elements involved and you have a site chosen, it is time to start laying everything out. You are going to want to start off with the rocks and stones first since these are heavy and form the foundation for the rest of the garden. How you choose to lay these out depends a lot on your available space and what symbolic meaning, if any, you are shooting for.
Try to remember that in learning how to create a Japanese garden, the rocks symbolize mountains and hills, so they should be placed more as a backdrop than a forefront element, and they should be partially buried so that it looks like they actually came up right out of the ground. You can place them in whatever groupings you like for the image you have in mind.
Create a Japanese Garden - Plant Life:
Next comes your plant life, and with the rocks in place you will most likely have to bring in additional dirt to form planting areas around the rocks. The plant life is generally pretty subtle in Japanese garden designs. I've found most gardens are broken down into "themes" with 1 or 2 main blooming plants as the focus, then a lot of green foliage to blend them in. For instance a simple Japanese maple surround by low growing ground cover is one such design.
The water feature can be installed next (or in the 2nd step if you need to). Remember to do your best to blend in the water feature with the existing design so that it looks as natural as possible. If you have a sloped area to work with, or can hide the pumps and lines, you can create a stunning waterfall without a lot of effort and those really add to the overall ambiance of the garden.
The last step is to create a Japanese garden is to bring in any furniture and decorations you had in mind, remembering in this style of garden, less is more!
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