Tiny marvels of balance and elegance, Japanese gardens are a source of unlimited inspiration.
You can select certain plants or ornamental elements to give your garden an Asian touch.
Japanese garden quick facts
The Japanese garden
Trees and shrubs pruned with precision are very important in Japanese gardens: they offer structure and play around with perspective. If you also want to jab the hand pruner around to produce a shrub with a perfect silhouette, best go for small conifers like the dwarf fir tree and false cypress which are great for bonsai and cloud pruning.
Bamboo will contribute to bringing over a bit of Asia to your garden. They are quite convenient to set up a hedge. Select them to be clumping (non-running) to avoid them invading your garden. If your garden is small, select a dwarf variety that you can also grow in pots. With bamboo-like leaves but entirely non-spreading, the Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’ will also gift you with wonderful yellow flowers in fall!
Among other species that are distinctly associated to the country of the rising sun are ginkgo biloba, with its surprising butterfly-shaped leaves. Together with taller Japanese cherry tree, maules’s quince have an extraordinary blooming in spring. Of course, impossible to forget Japanese maple (Acer palmatum and japonicum), that takes on furnace-like colors in fall. Set yours up in part sun with acidic soil (pH 5 to 6), cool and well drained.
You can enhance the stage with shrubs like camellia, azalea, hydrangea and rhododendron. Note that all these plants require acidic soil which is very common in Japan! If your soil is very chalky, try growing these in pots to create a mini-Japanese garden on your terrace for instance.
To cover the ground itself, bring in greenery like ferns and hostas, and plant iris which is a flower that inspired a great many Japanese artists. The symmetrical bearing of Cycas makes that Japanese native plant an interesting feature at mid-height.
Scenery from the Land of the Rising Sun
Various ornamental objects will bring the final touch to your garden. Create a winding path along the lawn with Japanese stepping stones, attach a lantern or wind chimes to the branch of a tree, plant bamboo torches along a garden trail…
Each special touch will help induce meditation in the garden…
Stone lanterns are almost a must-have, but you might also prefer a little fountain. In the shape of a Buddha or simply square, there are sun-powered models that are activated by the sun’s rays.
minor edits by Gaspard Lorthiois
- Also one-of-a-kind: Zen rock gardens
Japanese gardens on social media
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Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Japanese temple (also on social media) by Ondřej Šponiar ★ under Pixabay license
Garden fairies by Felisa ★ under Pixabay license