Japanese garden design is a cultural form of gardening that is meant to produce a scene that mimics nature as much as possible by using trees, shrubs, rocks, sand, artificial hills, ponds, and flowing water as art-forms. The Zen and Shinto traditions play a large part in creating Japanese gardens and because of this; the gardens produce a contemplative and reflective state of mind. Creating Japanese gardens is much different than the Western style and most would say it is far more meditational and soul soothing.
To design a Japanese backyard garden, you will need to know that there are three basic methods for scenery. The first of which is called reduced scale. Reduced scale is the art of taking an actual scene from nature, mountains, rivers, trees, and the like and reproducing it on a smaller scale.
Symbolization involves generalization and abstraction. An example of this would be using white sand to suggest the ocean. Borrowed views refers to artists that would use something like an ocean or forest as a background, but it would end up becoming an important element of the scenery.
There are essentially two art forms to design Japanese garden: tsukiyami, which is a hill garden and mainly composed of hills and ponds. The other is hiraniwa, which is basically the exact opposite of tsukiyami: a flat garden without any hills or ponds.
The basic elements used in Japanese garden landscaping include rocks, gravel, water, moss, stones, fences, and hedges. Rocks are most often used as centerpieces and bring a presence of spirituality to the garden. According to the Shinto tradition, rocks embody the spirits of nature. Gravel is used as a sort of defining surface and is used to imitate the flow of water when arranged properly. Stones are used to create a boundary and are sculpted into the form of lanterns. Water, whether it be in the form of a pond, stream, or waterfall, is an essential part of a Japanese garden design. It can be in the actual form of water or portrayed by gravel, but no matter what form of water it’s in, it is crucial to a Japanese gardens balance.
There are several signature forms and types of Japanese garden plants, the main one being Bonsai. Bonsai is the art of training everyday, average plants, such as Pine, Cypress, Holly, Cedar, Cherry, Maple, and Beech, to look like large, old trees just in miniature form. These trees range from five centimeters to one meter and are kept small by pruning, re-potting, pinching new growth, and wiring the branches.
Japanese garden design is a tradition that has crossed the poet, Muso Soseki, who stated “Gardens are a root of transformation”. A Japanese garden is sure to bring about many different feelings and is definitely a transforming experience.
Kali Winters is a gardening enthusiast and author who spends much of her time teaching others how to setup and maintain beautiful, amazing gardens. Her latest book, “Holistic Herbs~A Beginners Guide to Herbal Gardening” is available Here!
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