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How to Landscape a Japanese Garden

Japanese gardens truly are works of art. If you're planning to make one in your backyard, you will need to know how to landscape a Japanese garden.

There are lots of resources you can gather to help you learn how to landscape a Japanese garden online, as well as books you can buy to help you be successful with this endeavor.

First, you need to learn the theory behind Japanese landscaping. A Japanese garden should include the elements of stone, water and plants in a manner that recreates a larger landscape on a smaller scale, creating harmony and tranquility.

Stones are the bones of the Japanese garden. When you are learning how to landscape a Japanese garden, these are the first items that you need to turn your attention to. Planning where to put them, figuring out what kind of stones you need and getting them placed will be the first step in creating your garden.

Stones in a Japanese garden can represent a mountain, a holy place, an island, or even just a stone. You'll want to find stones that are carved by nature rather than stones that clearly show the marks of the stone cutter's craft. Make sure you choose stones that are different in size and shape, but that seem to go together.

The measure of success in learning how to landscape a Japanese garden is in how well all the elements harmonize together.

Once you've gotten your stones and placed them in the garden, it is time to turn your attention to the element of water.

Will you have a pond or a stream? You will want to create your water feature in as natural a fashion as possible. You won't find square ponds in nature, nor straight streams, so plan accordingly. Rather than choosing a fountain, think about adding a waterfall to aerate the pond or stream. A waterfall is a natural form, whereas a fountain is not.

If you are not keen on a large water feature, you can still add water in a couple of other ways.

One is to add a water basin. You can find these attached to bamboo water features or you can get a plain stone basin to collect rain water. Another "waterless" way to add water is to make a dry stream, using small river stones to meander through the garden. This gives the suggestion of water, and is often used in Japanese gardens.

Finally, you can look at what plants you want to include. Think about what you have room for, and what is native to your area. You'll want to research the plants you are interested in, so you know how they will look in all four seasons.

Choose more foliage plants than flowering plants… when a plant flowers, you want it to be a focal point, not lost in a mass of color. Include some taller trees like bamboo, some smaller trees or shrubs like Japanese maple, some taller plants and some small creeping plants. Moss is also a good addition, especially near a water feature or near stones.

You may want to consider adding a traditional piece of garden art, like a pagoda or lantern. By placing it in just the right spot, you can create a lovely traditional focal point that will add just the right touch to your Japanese garden.

If you have enough room, add a small bridge. The bridge can cross a stream of water or stones, or you can place it over a bed of plants.

Remember, the trick with a Japanese garden is to recreate a larger landscape in a smaller space, so scale things accordingly.

If you want to create an illusion of perspective, choose plants for the background with smaller leaves than those in the foreground.

Place larger rocks in front and smaller ones behind in your groupings to echo this perspective. Learning how to landscape a Japanese garden doesn't need years of study, but doing a little homework beforehand will help you get the look you want.

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