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Japanese Water Gardens

Japanese Garden Design Tips and Ideas

Japanese water gardens are maybe the ultimate in garden serenity. With its beautiful greenery and sparkling water, it is inviting, calming and a delight to the senses.

Japanese water gardens are designed with the same principles used to design other forms of Japanese gardens. Strict rules for garden design are followed. What results is magical and serene.

If you are considering building your own Japanese water garden, be sure to look at several photos of these gardens. If there are any public gardens near you that use the Japanese style, be sure and visit it, taking notes if necessary to understand how each element works together.

japanese water garden
The first rule to remember is that Japanese gardens try to capture Nature at its most beautiful.

Water elements should not be unnatural in shape. Look at a pond or stream. Ponds are not square and streams don't flow in a straight line. Choose a waterfall instead of a fountain. If you are ever in doubt, look to nature for your answer.

If you plan to put koi or goldfish in your pond, be sure the water feature is properly equipped to keep the water clean and habitable for the fish.

When planning your garden, think of creating the majesty of nature in the smaller scale of your yard.

This is one of the basic tenets of Japanese garden design. You'll want to include stones, water and plants. If your garden area is large enough, you may also want to consider ornaments and maybe even a bridge. Paths are also an important part to include.

Stones and Rocks in the Japanese Garden

Stones are generally used to represent mountains or islands. They are the bones of your garden, so choose interesting stones carved by nature.

Stones can also represent strength and endurance. If the stones will be used as visual interest in the garden, don't get stones all the same size, and group them in odd numbers like 3 or 5. Pathways represent the journey, and they guide visitors through your garden.

The water will be the heart of your Japanese water garden. It should appear to be natural to the environment and not imposed upon it. This can be achieved by giving your water feature a natural shape, and using plants and boulders along the edge.

Look at photos of water features in the wild for ideas on how these items can be placed. Water can also be represented by a streambed made of small stones. If you plan to add fish, you will need to find an appropriate filter system to keep the water clean. A waterfall can help keep the water aerated as well as adding interest to the eye and ear.

Japanese Garden Plants

The plants you choose should be natural to your area. In other words, if you live in a temperate zone, don't plant something exotic. Stick to species you would normally see growing in your area. You'll want to think about how each plant looks during each season.

The full impact of a Japanese garden of any kind should be evident year round in different ways. Keep your color choices to a minimum… you don't want to clash by having a wild profusion of color that will detract from the overall design of your garden.

In most Japanese gardens, flowers are used sparingly. It is good to think of this ratio… in any given season, one quarter of the garden may be in bloom, but it is balanced by three quarters in foliage. For example, in spring you may have a beautiful flowering cherry tree complemented by lots of new greenery.

If you have the room, you may want to add an ornament or two. Common ornaments for Japanese water gardens include stone lanterns (often placed on a large stone in the middle of the water), or a piece of statuary that has meaning, or a basin of some kind.

These items create small focal points amidst the foliage and the water. The trick is to keep the effect harmonious.

If you have even more room, you may want to consider a bridge. A small arched bridge may be placed over a running stream or over a bed deep in foliage.

Take your time, and consider the placement of each element carefully. Does it complement its surroundings? Does it mimic nature? The Japanese water garden should come together with all its elements with grace and harmony.

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