Table of Contents
What is a Japanese Garden?
According to Gardening expert Sophie Walker, "The Japanese garden, in its many forms, is a place of meditation.," but that "there is always a goal and significance behind everything."
A Japanese Garden is a type of garden that uses natural water elements like lakes, rivers, ponds, and streams to reflect the appearance of nature. They are usually more minimalist in style with little or no equipment (i.e., no swing sets) or structures (like swings). Instead, you'll find sand, stone lanterns, bridges over ponds, stones on the ground with moss growing between them, which serve as pathways for foot traffic.
Also included are trees and other greenery laid out in various patterns, such as straight lines or circular arcs. The plants used may vary, depending on your location but include bonsai trees and flowers like cherry blossoms.
Now that you have an idea of what a Japanese Garden is, let's go over the key factors that make it unique.
Key Factors to Consider
When designing your Japanese garden, there are certain key factors you should know. These factors can help influence design decisions and which plants would work best for each area.
The first factor is to consider the environment where your garden will be placed. Is it shady or sunny? Will there be nearby trees? Knowing this information ahead of time could save pain and time later on! Use Google Earth pictures or wait until spring or summer to look around outside before finalizing any plans.
Next, consider the season during which your garden will be visited most often. If you live in the deep south where it gets really hot, so your garden will be more of a year-round kind of place. Check for foliage that will grow during each season, and keep these in mind when creating your garden layout.
Finally, decide what you want to accomplish with your Japanese Garden. Is it mainly for relaxation? Or are you hoping to have an outdoor space for entertaining guests? Maybe you want something beautiful to look at while drinking tea! Whatever your reason may be, make sure it is something specific and not "I don't know" or "just because."
After considering all three factors, we can begin designing your dream Japanese garden! But first, we need to decide the location and size!
Choosing Location and Size
Before laying out the groundwork (literally), it's best to decide where your garden will be located. Think about how much sun the area gets and what other people in your household think about it. I live with my wife, who's not too keen on this idea, so I'm stuck placing my Japanese garden next to a fence in our backyard hidden from view. Ugh! I know, maybe one day.
Once you have decided on an appropriate location for your garden, search around to find the perfect spot for putting it down. Now measure the length and width of the space using string or rope or just by pacing off steps. Use that information along with these guidelines:
- A Japanese-style garden should be sized to fit the location. For example, if it's in an open area, the garden can be larger than one confined by surrounding walls or other structures.
- Think about how much sun your garden will get. If you are putting it in a shady area, consider using pots with sun-loving plants like succulents instead of having them growing directly on the ground.
- Remember that some plants have different transpiration rates, so they use more water, so keep this in mind when choosing species to grow.
Choosing Plants For Your Japanese Garden - Why It's Important
When designing your Japanese garden, the plants you use are very important, so choosing the right ones should be done carefully. You can't just go to Home Depot or Lowes and pick up whatever is cheapest (or closest) to what you want. No! Some plants require certain care, which means they may not survive in certain climates or environments without proper soil conditions.
For example, there's a difference between growing water-loving lotus flowers outside New Mexico versus Massachusetts. So whatever you do, do your research first before planting anything!
Since my wife isn't exactly supportive of this project, she gave me two things; space and patience, so I started gathering information about what types of plants will grow best in the southern U.S. Then, I drew some ideas for what my garden should look like. Next, I decided to post these pictures online to get feedback about which ones were realistic. This was when I realized (at least for me) that choosing suitable plants requires certain information about each plant before making a choice.
The Plants You Can Choose From
There are so many beautiful plants that you can choose but here are some options to consider:
1. Cherry Blossom (Sakura) Trees
These trees flower during the spring season and come in different sizes. If you live in an area with cold winters, the blooms may not last as long as they would if you lived elsewhere.
Slightly succulent, begonias are highly decorative and easy to care for. They come in a variety of sizes, shapes, sizes, colors, and even leaf types, which means they fit into any garden nicely without being too difficult or expensive to maintain. Plus, they are not fussy about where they grow either, so the options are almost limitless when it comes to this flower's traits.
If you're looking for something that requires less sunlight but doesn't mind colder weather, then Clivia may be a perfect choice because it tolerates both heat and cold fairly well! It can also grow in the shade or full sun depending on your preferences. Best of all, clivias require little water once established. So, if you use drip irrigation, this may be the solution you are looking for!
4. Orchid trees
If you have an area of your garden that gets more sunlight, you might want to consider growing orchids. Not only do they come in different colors, but some varieties even grow green leaves which means they require less water than other types of plants! Just keep in mind that these trees can get rather large, so plan accordingly.
These are great because bamboo is not picky about where it grows and requires very little care once established except for the occasional pruning, which keeps it tidy. Plus, it's hard to beat their lovely green color when paired with complementary foliage. It's almost like Mother Nature has done half the work for you!
When it comes down to it, you can create a Japanese garden with any plant, no matter whether they like the sun or prefer shade. All you need is an interest in gardening and some basic knowledge about what types of plants may be most compatible with each other!
Watering Your Japanese Garden
One other thing I realized when I was researching is that some plants require more care in terms of watering. For example, cacti may not need much water, whereas other species might die if the soil isn't wet enough. You'll have to research how much water each plant requires before planting. Otherwise, your garden will suffer from over-or under-watering, which can cause problems too.
Depending on where you live, where you are putting your garden, and what types of plants you choose to grow, there are a few methods for giving them proper hydration. Here are a few ideas:
This option is pretty straightforward as long as you keep it set up and ready to turn on. All you have to do is get a good spray nozzle that allows the water to flow without soaking everything else too much.
This method of watering is also pretty simple but not always the most convenient if you don't want to lug around heavy barrels and/or they don't fit in your garden area well. The idea is to store rainwater (if you receive enough) or buy one large barrel and fill it with tap water before using it all up.
3. Soil Moisture Sensor
I use this method nowadays since my wife likes to free-hand the hose, forgetting when we watered everything. I also like how it helps keep us from overwatering certain plants. It's a sensor that goes in the ground alongside your garden, and it alerts you when to water via text messages or emails.
4. Electronic Water Timer
These are nice if they go on sale because you can set them up to be automatic for watering multiple things like your flowers, your lawn (if you have one), and even inside your house (if needed). They are simple to install too, which is always helpful!
5. Gravity-Fed Drip Systems
If I had the money, this would be my personal choice for getting everything watered without having to worry about forgetting anything or wasting time/money with system malfunctions. Just put them right next to each other, and you can keep on with your day while the drip system does its job.
Ways To Improve Your Japanese Garden
Apart from keeping your garden healthy, you also have to make sure it is aesthetically pleasing. Here are some ideas for what you could add to make your garden look even better:
1. Have A Fountain
To have a proper Japanese garden, it is recommended to have an accompanying fountain. The water flow from a fountain is quite soothing and has a calming effect on people and plants, so having one will instantly make your garden feel more Zen.
I would recommend getting one that uses solar energy; this way, you don't need to rely on having access to an outlet or complicated wiring systems. Not to mention, it's better for the environment! If you want one with electricity, it would be best to place them near power outlets, so you don't need to run any complex wiring.
2. Have a Koi Pond
Koi ponds are quite popular in most Japanese gardens, so I would highly recommend having one. They look quite nice, and they give the garden added depth with the shadows of the koi swimming around.
If you do not want to follow traditional Japanese design strictly, you can ignore this tip entirely!
3. Mind The Rocks
It might seem like a no-brainer that rocks will be present in any garden, but you would be surprised at how many people don't consider them when they start designing their own gardens. Be sure to place them strategically, such as cascading down hills or acting as dividers between different parts of your garden!
Also, if you're using gravel instead of stones or pebbles, make sure it's pretty small, so it doesn't get stuck in the paws/claws of house pets and little children who might decide to play in your garden
4. Keep Pests Away
I hope by now everyone knows that getting rid of pests is an important part of keeping your garden looking good! Be sure to include flowers that are known to repel insects. Rosemary roses, marigolds, and lavender will be great options to go for. If you do not want the traditional "pesticide" approach, grow some bamboo plants that naturally keep out mosquitos.
5. Try Adding a Statute
If you like nooks and crannies in your garden, then this might be an option for you! Statues can add character into any area that could use it while also helping break up the monotony of plants growing everywhere (and possibly obstructing views). Just make sure if they're put outdoors that they're protected from the elements!
6. Mind The Moss
Moss is pretty and makes your garden look like something out of a painting, but it can be difficult to grow, especially in hotter areas like where I live (I'm looking at you, Arizona!). If you have an area near a tree or in the shade, stick some moss down there, and you'll be able to see it grow within a few months! Just remember that if your area gets hotter than 80 degrees Fahrenheit during certain parts of the summer, your moss might die back.