I won’t show “bad example” pictures and link to bad articles here! If you search via Google, I am sure you will find a lot by yourself.
When I see links promising me to teach me how to built a Japanese garden in only a few steps, I just can’t withstand and have to follow them.
Most of the sites welcome me with a beautiful picture of a Japanese garden in Japan, followed by some tips, and close with pictures of even more gardens in Japan. Unfortunately, the tips are almost useless.
My guess is, that these articles are written by professional content writers on commission and the authors do know nothing about Japanese gardens and gardening in general.
Then there are articles with quite good tips and pictures of DIY (do it yourself) Japanese gardens.
The only problem is that these DIY gardens rarely look like Japanese gardens…
I am still looking for an appropriate term for these kind of gardens, which have randomly placed and unconnected stones, objects and plants on a bed of gravel.
And finally there are jewels within these articles with beautiful Japanese gardens outside of Japan and good tips to build one by themselves.
Today I would like to tell you how to divide the good articles from the bad ones and give some tips on how to create an authentic Japanese garden myself.
First lets start on the articles…
Look out for pictures of famous gardens like Ryoan-ji and the Adachi Museum of Art.
These articles are published not to help you with building a Japanese garden at home, but to catch readers with beautiful pictures. They work exactly like coffee table books.
However, you can use their pictures for inspiration!
If you have a hybrid article with pictures from a Japanese garden in Japan and a DIY garden, make sure the pictures from gardens in Japan are used as additional explanation to the text. The pictures should show what is described in the text.
If the DIY garden pictures do not look like any original! Japanese garden you have seen so far, be
careful with the tips.
The greatest danger are articles with bad tips and pictures of above mentioned so-called Japanese gardens.
Please don’t become influenced by these!
If you read an article, which tells you to add a gravel area, a round pot with water and a goldfish, add an azalea and a pine and garnish everything with a red mini-bridge, a lantern and a buddha, please close the tab immediately!
The last article I read had tips, which are be quite useful, but show a garden, which didn’t look at all Japanese (even without the typical gravel area).
This article told the reader to keep it simple. No objects and only two or three different variety of plants.
This is totally acceptable depending on the type of garden.
Because: there is not only ONE Japanese garden!
We have a lot of different types, which all look totally different.
Before starting your own project, you need to narrow down which type is for you and your garden.
For example, there are dry landscape gardens, moss covered gardens, tea gardens, pond gardens, strolling gardens and lots of sub-sections.
Decide the type you want by looking at pictures of gardens in Japan and good gardens overseas like the Portland Japanese Garden.
Note that most gardens you find by searching google are gardens outside of Japan!
You can use our website, books or the search string 日本庭園 to get results of gardens in Japan.
If you found the style you like, watch even more pictures to get a feeling for this type of garden. Google and also Pinterest are helpful here, because they show you similar results when clicking on a picture once.
Look at the stones, gravel and plants. How are they arranged?
Are there objects in the garden? How is a garden path looking?
Please consider, that in a Japanese garden things are not placed without purpose.
If you lay out stepping stones, they should actually lead somewhere! They are a path, either leading you around the garden or connecting different zones of a garden.
Garden elements are never placed in a gravel area! (With few exceptions.)
If you looked carefully on your pictures, you will already have noticed, that pagodas are often embedded in the scenery distant on a hill, lanterns are standing beside paths to help you navigate in the dark or, in case of snow-viewing lanterns, on the shore of a pond.
Buddhas, if even present, are always hidden in the green.
There are no round bushes standing completely alone.
Round bushes are not used in Japanese gardens. Even if you think that those bobble shaped ones are round, it is not true. At the bottom they are going down straight.
Combine your shaped azaleas with rocks or other azaleas!
Rocks are not just placed above the soil or gravel. They are buried inside the ground as deep as until they look solid and naturally placed.
Most gardens in Japan are enclosed. Either through plants, walls or fences. You do have gardens, where you can look into the distance, but they either take the view in consideration (borrowed landscape) or they are divided through high bushes and trees. You don’t want to see the garden of your neighbor!
Take notes of every interesting detail you found during your research. Make a list of plants and rocks and elements used in the gardens you like.
Now look at your garden and consider, which of these things will fit in your garden and stroke out unnecessary elements. As mentioned in the article I read last time: less is more!
Before getting started, take dimensions of your garden and carefully plan in advance.
Don’t forget to take the width of a bush and the width of its rootball in consideration. You might want to buy smaller bushes and see them grow bigger over time, or you want to have the garden just looking right from the beginning.
Draw an easy plan where you indicate the bushes, stones, elements and pathways.
Then search for suiting materials and only then get started to build your dream!
And finally.. During the construction works, don’t stick exactly to your plan. Take the shapes of the bushes and rocks in consideration when placing them.
Here are some of our books which might help you with creating your own true Japanese garden:
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