The Elements Of Japanese Style Gardens
Japanese style gardens combine the basic elements of plants, water, and rocks with simple, clean lines to create a tranquil retreat. Learn how to make your own Zen garden.
Make an Entrance
Make an Entrance – Use a simple bamboo fence to block views of the world outside your garden. Make the entrance to your garden clear with a gate and attractive arbor.
Create Mystery – A key element in Japanese garden style is creating vignettes that can’t be viewed all at once. Here a winding path leads your eye past the stone pagoda and beckons exploration of what’s around the next corner.
Grow Evergreens – Most Japanese gardens rely on subtle differences in color and texture. Here conifers provide soothing shades of green for year-round interest. Some echo the pyramidal form of the pagoda while others frame the feature with their low, spreading branches.
Encourage Moss – Moss makes the perfect groundcover in moist shady areas of the Japanese garden. Because moss doesn’t tolerate foot traffic well, place stone steppers among the moss to allow passage without damage to the cushiony surface.
Make a Private Pavilion
Make a Private Pavilion – Create an intimate space in your Japanese garden with a teahouse or pavilion made of bamboo or wood. Use such a structure for entertaining or for viewing the serene landscape.
Try a Pagoda Pillar
Try a Pagoda Pillar – Stone lanterns shaped as pagodas are staples of Japanese style gardens. They can echo the roofline of a teahouse or covered gate entries in addition to providing a charming glow in the evening garden.
Add Textural Contrast
Add Textural Contrast – Shaded sections of the Japanese garden rely on subtle color contrast and bold textural differences to create interest. Here chartreuse and green hostas surround the base of a tree while variegated hakone grass softens the edge of the bed.
Create Structure from Plants
Create Structure from Plants – Trees in a Japanese garden often are pruned into shapes that reveal their architectural form. This Japanese maple shows its zigzag branching pattern. Arching branches reach over the contrasting groundcover and reflect in a nearby pool of water.
Protect Yourself from Evil Spirits
Protect Yourself from Evil Spirits – Legend has it that a zigzag bridge such as this one will protect you from evil spirits in the garden. The myth says that evil spirits can only travel in a straight line, so the bridge traps them, allowing you to escape to safety.
Provide an Island Getaway
Provide an Island Getaway – A small island in the middle of this pond creates the illusion of a secluded retreat, even though the arch of the bridge is too steep to safely walk over. With a larger space and longer span on the bridge, you could access the island.
Time for Reflection
Time for Reflection – This small reflecting pool has a decidedly Japanese flavor. From the glass Japanese fishing float on its surface to the bamboo fountain, Japanese bloodgrass, stone pagoda lantern, and moss-covered rocks surrounding the pond, all elements blend in Asian style.
Feed the Fish
Feed the Fish – Colorful koi and goldfish bring hours of enjoyment to the Japanese garden. Train your fish to come on command for feeding time. Goldfish are hardier than koi, but both types may need to be overwintered indoors in cold climates.
Japan has a rich gardening heritage that goes back more than a thousand years. Japanese style gardens give visitors peaceful places to meditate, and they typically feature natural elements that serve symbolic functions. Simple yet stunning, these unique retreats come in multiple varieties.