The designs of Japanese gardens have almost always been based on the natural landscape. Also, culture and tradition are incorporated into every design to create a space of Zen. Gardens are meticulously crafted down to every single basic element to create a spiritual sanctuary. These traditional elements symbolise or mimic natural scenery to make the garden conducive to contemplation.
The four essential elements
Geometric shapes and artificial ornaments are uncommon in Asian landscape design. Rather, elements such as stones, water and plants are used for asymmetry, balance and symbolism. In eastern philosophy, stones or rocks are given special attention as they symbolise the forces of nature. They are often arranged in pairs or by style, depending on their shape and size. In Shinto, large rocks are worshipped as kami or the spirit that possesses extraordinary qualities. Today, these prominent stones represent mountains and hills. Smaller stones, on the other hand, are used with gravel to line streams and ponds.
Another prime component is water, which is always central to the layout of a traditional Japanese garden. It is an expression of nature that represents renewal, serenity, wonder and continuity. This fundamental element may be in the form of a sea, river, waterfall or pond. It should start from the south-east direction to the west in order to fulfil the principles of geomancy.
Plants are a third feature that symbolises the universal forms of life. Patterns, colours and textures are very important because of their appearance during seasonal changes. Trees are often pruned in shapes to enhance their architectural form. A prevalent garden feature is a maple tree, while blooms such as azaleas and rhododendrons are also popular.
Ornaments are hallmarks of a Japanese garden. They are mainly placed for their aesthetic value but are also kept because of their function in the garden. Bridges, gates, stone lanterns and pagodas are placed as garden accents, while gongs and wind chimes are used because of the belief that they bring prosperity and attract good fortune.
Simplicity in form
Japanese gardens may imitate the natural world in a stylised way, but they are subtle. For this reason, you must keep your garden design simple and small. Your inspiration could include the four elements, ensuring that they are balanced through asymmetry. This simply means that if you place a tree on one side, a boulder should be placed on the other. Since most of these gardens make use of natural building materials, you can easily style yours without making the pieces look out of place. For your contemporary landscape, you can combine some traditional materials with modern ones.
There are many other elements of design in nearly all traditional gardens that you can incorporate into your landscape. When you understand the ancient foundations and basic features of a Japanese garden, it is easier to create an inspired replica right in your own backyard. Oakleigh Manor employs a team of highly skilled landscape designers that carry out projects throughout the UK. Our focus is on garden design, with expertise in landscaping, drives, entrance gates and garden lighting. If you’re interested in a new design for your garden, why not give us a call on 0800 023 1310.
This article was written by Naim