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Create a Japanese Garden

It may be a dream of yours to create a Japanese garden. Who can't be touched by the serenity and beauty in a traditional Japanese garden?

It is natural to want to create a Japanese garden of our own so we have a place of tranquility to retreat to at the end of a hard day's work. A place where we can feel one with nature and let our minds relax.

But where do you start? First, you need to understand a little about the theory behind Japanese gardens.

Japanese gardens are based on nature. They create a larger view of nature in miniature in a smaller space, like a back yard. They usually use plants that are native to an area, and they utilize stones, plants, ornaments and sometimes water.

Study photos of several Japanese gardens and visit one if you can to understand the effect these elements create. Notice how the stones are set into the landscape and how it all relates together.

Since rocks form the structure of the Japanese garden, every rock whatever its size, has a designated spot and purpose. Don't put a smooth rock in a high spot that should be suggestive of mountains, and don't put rough rocks in your stream bed. Think about the shape of the rocks you have and where they would be located in the landscape geographically.

In your effort to create a Japanese garden, your choice of rocks is very important.

You may have a stone that may represent a mountain, an island, a holy spot or just a rock.

The use of rocks in the Japanese garden is an artform, so take your time when deciding where to place them in your garden. Use your imagination and think about what kind of landscape you are creating.

Some uses for rocks in your Japanese garden may include a shift in elevation, where large boulders hold up a planting of shrubs overhead; utility and function, where stones are used as stepping stones, naturally formed seats or barriers; in water features, where stones may form a stream bed, or create a shelf or hollow where a waterfall is sourced; or as bridges to help those enjoying the garden cross water or a deep garden bed.

You will need to choose your plants carefully. Some plants that may suit your needs in helping to create a Japanese garden may include evergreen trees like the holly, the magnolia, the redtip photinia or the glossy privet.

Some deciduous trees that you may want to choose from might include the birch, the snowbell, the quaking aspen, the Japanese maple, the Japanese flowering cherry or the dogwood.

Evergreen vines like evergreen clematis, jasmine, ivy, honeysuckle or bougainvillea can make a striking statement in the garden.

Groundcovers to choose from would include varieties like baby's tears, Irish moss, violet, rock cress, chamomile, juniper or St. John's wort.

Shade plants like heavenly bamboo (nandina species), Japanese maple, fuschia, camellia and sweet bay make be good choices.

For fall color, choose plants like crab apple, crepe myrtle, Japanese maple, mulberry, larch and snowbell.

For winter interest due to bark texture, take a look at birch, white willow, quaking aspen and lacebark pine.

If you need some ornaments to help you create a Japanese garden, think along the lines of stone lanterns, statuary or water basins. In fact, you can install a water basin and get both an ornament out of it as well as a water feature.

This can be a rock with a hollowed area to catch rain water, a carved basin with a dripping water feature made from bamboo, or even a water harp (a suikinkutsu).

A water harp is a carved basin, and below the basin is a layer of pebbles. Beneath the pebbles is a large hidden pot. As water drips over the side of the basin onto the pebbles, some invariably will drip past the pebbles into the hidden pot.

The drips will make an echo somewhat like what you would hear in a cave. If you choose to include a water harp, you may want to hire a professional who has done one before, since each chamber is complex and must be "tuned" to the size and frequency of the drops that will be falling.

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