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Japanese garden: tips for designing and creating
Japanese garden: tips for designing and creating

Video: Japanese garden: tips for designing and creating

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Video: 5 Tips for Incorporating Japanese Garden Design into Your Garden 2023, January
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Today's Japanese garden is the result of a long tradition and evolution. Concentrating on the essentials and integrating the garden into its surroundings play an important role. Read here what the Zen teaching has to do with it and what other rules you should follow when designing it.

Table of contents Table of contents Japanese garden: relaxing greenery

  • What does zen mean?
  • Meditation or contemplation gardens: The spirit of emptiness
  • Creation of a Japanese garden
  • Typical elements of a Japanese garden
  • Planting a Japanese garden
  • Small alternatives for Japanese gardens

Table of contents Table of contents Japanese garden: relaxing greenery

  • What does zen mean?
  • Meditation or contemplation gardens: The spirit of emptiness
  • Creation of a Japanese garden
  • Typical elements of a Japanese garden
  • Planting a Japanese garden
  • Small alternatives for Japanese gardens

A Japanese garden combines aesthetics, fine art and patience in the smallest of spaces. The aim is to create an original, but harmonious and self-contained garden picture. So you should concentrate on the essentials while designing, but at the same time set stylish accents that harmonize with each other.

Japanese gardens are inextricably linked to the teaching of Zen. Influenced by Daoism, the Buddhist meditation theory originated in China and also reached Japan in the 12th century. There was a change of rule there at that time: the warriors wrested control from the nobility and thus founded the Japanese Middle Ages. Chinese Zen Buddhism came into focus and a new religiosity emerged that also played a role in garden design. The beauty of the simple and the simple beauty were declared ideal, so that the garden became a place of retreat and relaxation.

Even today, this type of garden is particularly attractive - mainly because people long for peace and balance in a hectic world. You can face the stress and the daily work, as well as the pressure of the constant acceleration of life with your own little oasis. If you don't have a garden available, you can simply buy or build a mini Zen garden in a pot - relaxation in the smallest space.

Japanischer Garten
Japanischer Garten

Japanese gardens exude a very special atmosphere. However, make sure that the garden blends in harmoniously with its surroundings.

Photo: Gärtnerei Hofstetter Mühle

What does zen mean?

Zen is understood as a current that emerged from Mahayana Buddhism and aims at enlightenment through meditation and the liberation from fears and desires. Through the detachment from worldly goods and bonds, a liberation, a not-being-self should arise. These ideals also influenced Japanese garden design. Since Zen searches for hidden, inner and higher truths beyond matter, this was accompanied by a contempt for the surface in the garden. In Zen, you will therefore encounter mostly simple and barren Japanese gardens, which mostly consist of sand or gravel areas.

Meditation or contemplation gardens: The spirit of emptiness

The name meditation garden implies a small mistake: In these gardens there is usually no meditation. In Asia, this almost always happens in caves or dimmed rooms. Meditation gardens are sparsely designed areas of sand or pebble, into which certain patterns are drawn with a rake. Only a few, cleanly cut trees or shrubs can be found. There are also rock formations that gain completely new meanings through the smallest changes in the arrangement.

The order and discipline in the gardens immediately captivates the viewer. Something magical takes hold of him, so that a certain calm almost automatically arises. Even if the gardens do not directly serve as a place for meditation, they still stand for the teachings of Zen Buddhism. The connecting element between garden and zen is the daily cleaning of the system analogous to the soul. Meditation corresponds to the removal of leaves or the drawing of gravel lines.

The contemplation gardens are usually not entered, but only walked mentally. They serve as a spiritual land that serves to collect, rest and reflect. The small garden should be perceived as limitless and the viewer should feel the big in the small. Another element of these gardens is that they can be viewed simply like pictures or paintings.

Creation of a Japanese garden

The basic rule for a Japanese garden is that it should be integrated into the respective landscape. Despite the highly visible human interventions, the garden should appear harmonious and absorb or reinforce the surroundings. It doesn't matter whether skyscrapers or mountains are looming on the horizon. A successful Japanese garden integrates everything.

Lay out the garden in such a way that the wild coincides with the human, complements and is inspiring. It is neither necessary nor wanted to copy existing Japanese gardens. You can lean on old masterpieces, but always let your own creativity flow in. You can also create beautiful gardens with the local flora.

The use of stones

The Zen sand and stone gardens are special forms of the Japanese garden and are also called "kare-san-sui", which means dry mountain water gardens. The pebbles and sand do not stand for dry things, but actually for water, rivers and seas. Alongside the Zen garden itself, this was one of the abstract innovations of the time. But other stone and rock arrangements also play an important role, which are highly complicated.

The importance of the stones was subject to constant change. Very early on they were seen as dwellings of the gods, then as hubs of Chi energy and in the late Middle Ages only as decorative objects, which they have remained until today. Nevertheless, there is always a certain message associated with the arrangement of the stones.

Getting into the matter is very difficult. Time, experience and intuition are required to gain sound knowledge.

For beginners, those seeking tranquility and hobby gardeners, it is advisable to first follow their feelings and create a harmonious garden picture. In general, Japanese gardens tend to emerge from development rather than following a strict plan.

You can use the stones to give your garden a structure - a kind of scaffolding. Vary small stones, boulders and boulders, according to your taste.

Steine im japanischen Garten
Steine im japanischen Garten

The placement and use of stones in the Japanese garden are subject to certain rules. As a beginner, however, you can primarily rely on your intuition.

Photo: MSG / Dieke van Dieken

Basic rules for the use of stones

However, there are a few rules you should follow. For example, the arrangement of the stones should not resemble a geometric shape. Rather, the stones should be arranged at random to imitate the structure of nature. The large stones mostly symbolize mountains. Do not use polished or round stones for this, but look for angular or eroded rocks that actually remind you of mountains. Large, smoothly polished river stones are also unusable. Better use smaller specimens to imitate 'dry waters'. Flat and smooth, roughly fist-sized stones are particularly suitable. Arrange them like the scales of a fish to get a flowing water effect or to create a path. Your Japanese garden should aim to replicate a miniature land. Therefore, do not use proportions that are too different.

collect stones

A lot of stones are used in a Japanese garden. Therefore, always keep your eyes open for beautiful and above all suitable rubble. Collecting early can be worth it, as you will need a lot of time and maybe even heavier technical equipment. In the case of larger transportation, you should ask the authorities on site for a permit. If, in addition to the look of your garden, you are also interested in the lower levels of Japanese gardens, you should not use quarry stones. Firstly, because it could be illegal and secondly, because fresh stones from the interior of the earth have not yet developed a soul according to the Japanese imagination.

Example of a stone arrangement: "Sanzon-seki"

"Sanzon-seki" means "stones of the three saints" and is one of the dynamic and strong elements of the Zen gardens. Three vertical stones are used, the middle one should be the largest. The arrangement of the stones runs from northeast to southwest and is believed to keep evil spirits away from the house.

stepping stones

Another important element of Zen gardens are the stepping stones that direct the visitor to the garden and their gaze. The stepping stones are sometimes uneven and difficult to walk on. The effect is to create a concentration on the path and on yourself. The paths can also be laid out normally or like rivers. Here you have absolutely free choice and can realize yourself.

Line pattern

Curved lines in gravel or sand areas symbolize streams or bodies of water, for example. Make sure that the lines merge and that no beginning or end can be seen. In addition, the stones should be placed first and only then can the line patterns be drawn.

Linienmuster im Japangarten
Linienmuster im Japangarten

The stones are always placed first and then the lines drawn in the sand or gravel.

Photo: MSG / Beate Leufen-Bohlsen

Typical elements of a Japanese garden

Stone lanterns

Stone lanterns are a popular and well-known motif in Japanese gardens. The lanterns originally stood in front of temples or cemeteries and were used for ancestor worship or showed the way to the next tea house at dusk. The rather subdued light should not compete with the moon and creates an almost mysterious atmosphere. Over time, different styles emerged, such as the pagodas or shaft lanterns, all of which have their own purpose.

Steinlaternen im Japangarten
Steinlaternen im Japangarten

Stone lanterns are a must in the Japanese garden and can be placed on the edge of a pond or path, for example.

Photo: MSG / Martin Staffler

bridges

If you have a lot of space and maybe even a water system on your property, you could still consider building a bridge. A decorative gain that is also spiritually charged again: the bridges are considered a connection between worlds, for example that of gods and men. They can also symbolize the ascent to a higher level of consciousness.

Japanischer Garten Brücke
Japanischer Garten Brücke

Bridges symbolically mark the transition between two worlds.

Photo: MSG / Bettina Rehm-Wolters

water

Water belongs in every Japanese garden. It doesn't matter whether you create ponds, waterfalls or dry water from pebbles. Japan, the mountainous island in the sea is symbolized by the large rocks. The water surrounding them mostly stands for the sea or in general for the power of life.

water falls

In Japan, waterfalls are still considered a central element in a garden. Their dominance and dynamism captivate every visitor. Waterfalls are built from the bottom up. The color and size of the rocks should be carefully considered and adapted to the landscape. It is usually worthwhile to choose stones from the region, as they usually automatically match the flora and the surrounding area.

The waterfalls can be designed in different ways: whether in steps, single or double jet, falling steeply or more like a canyon. With this strong element, make sure that the harmony in your garden is maintained.

Create ponds

With their smooth surface, ponds give your garden a contour and convey a feeling of breadth and depth. In narrow Japan with its deep valleys, expanse is a real luxury, which should therefore be experienced at least in the allotment gardens. The pond serves as a benchmark and reference for the rest of the garden.

Ideally, the water point should be in the middle of a small stream that flows through the garden to guarantee that the nutrients are removed. You should seal the excavated pit with clay and gravel or use well-known pond liners. Since heavy stones are used, ask the specialist dealer about the resistance of the tarpaulins used. If you don't have a natural stream on your property, you can think of closed water circuits with pump systems.

Japanischer Gartenteich
Japanischer Gartenteich

No Japanese garden should be without water. If you have a lot of space, you can create a pond and keep koi carp in it.

Photo: MSG / Patrick Hahn

Planting a Japanese garden

The planting of the gardens underwent a change similar to the meaning of the stones: from symbols to pure aesthetics. Plants are omnipresent in the life of the Japanese and still shape everyday life and language. In the simple Zen gardens, it is not surprising that there are very few, but perfectly placed and arranged plants. With minimal effort, the last detail is more important.

The most popular trees in Japanese gardens are pine, maple, plum and cherry. Azaleas, camellias and bamboo also have an excellent reputation. The azalea impresses especially in spring with its different shades of red and in winter it scores with its green dress. Many plants have retained a deeper level of meaning to this day. For example, the pine represents longevity, while the cherry tree represents transience. As a gardener, however, you should find out beforehand which Japanese plants we grow with. Unfortunately, most of them cannot find perfect conditions. But there are alternatives: For small Japanese bushes cut into balls, for example, hedgerow myrtle (Lonicera nitida) or Japanese pod (Ilex crenata) can be used. Heather is also a popular replacement in European Zen gardens.

Japanischer Garten Bepflanzung
Japanischer Garten Bepflanzung

Japanese azaleas impress with their strong colors. Because of their size of only about 50 to 100 centimeters, they are also suitable for small gardens.

Photo: MSG / Susann Hayn

Small alternatives for Japanese gardens

Contemplative Zen gardens can be made to any size, which is a nice option for people in the city. In addition, the plants are mostly covered with gravel or sand. If you don't want to struggle with greenery and are still looking for relaxation and balance, the Zen garden may be just the thing for you. Many owners rave about the balancing effect of creating a composition that is as harmonious as possible and always adding new, creative patterns to the white background.

If the Zen garden is still too big for you, the small Japan offers related small solutions: One possibility would be the so-called Tsubo gardens: These are very small and enclosed garden courtyards. Most of the time you will only find the bare essentials in the gardens: stepping stones, a water trough and an evergreen plant. Further reductions are the bonsai tree or the Zen garden in the clay trough with miniature rake - also ideal for the office desk.

Lea Straub editors haus.de

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