Most of us have a pre-determined notion of what a Japanese garden looks like. We think of certain details which come to mind, things like the ever popular Japanese maples giving off their fiery glow in the fall. Or expanses of Kurume azaleas or rhododendrons with their fine spring colors. Or perhaps it is the rustling of a slender bamboo in the breeze. Some of the best known gardens in Japan, have almost no plantings at all, but are comprised of carefully tended “seas” of fine gravel surrounding rock groupings. Perhaps there is no better example of this than the world renowned garden at Ryoan-ji. Ryoan-ji is undoubtedly the finest example of a Zen type garden and receives tens of thousands of visitors every year.
Japanese Gardening Design Ideas
Japanese garden ryoan-ji via ord.yahoo.co.jp
Japanese gardens span the full spectrum of garden types, from the dry garden, to large pond type gardens with their lazily swimming and brightly colored koi. And everything in between. The basic elements used in Japanese gardening 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. It can be in the actual form of water or portrayed by gravel, but no matter what form water is in, it is crucial to a Japanese gardens balance.
One of the favorite tricks of Japanese garden designers in the past has been to use borrowed scenery to enhance their appearance. What this does, is to make the garden appear to blend in with, and take advantage of, the immediate surroundings. It gives the impression of much greater overall size.
There are several forms and types of plants that are signature of Japanese gardening, the main one being Bonsai. Bonsai is the art of training everyday, average plants, such as Cherry, Pine, Beech,Holly, Cedar, Maple, and Cypress 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, potting, pinching of growth, and wiring the branches.