A Japanese garden can be designed into landscapes in almost any climate. Work with plants and materials that will be best adapted to you own conditions for easy maintenance and longevity. Then blend your local choices into a peaceful, flowing oriental design using the basic elements of an Asian garden and artistically placed decor.
Start with a layout that will follow the natural flow of your garden. Use different levels and areas to design your picture. Paths are ideal to lead from one part of the landscape to the next while keeping in harmony with the theme of this kind of landscape.
Keep your plant selection simple. Most Asian gardens strive to make each plant into a statement. Fern, azaleas, Japanese Maple trees are some favorite plant choices, but the kind of plant is less important than the harmony created between the shape of the plant and the space in which it is planted. Choose plants that will thrive in your garden space. Struggling plant life does not create the serenity that is essential for a successful oriental landscape.
The goal is to strive for a sense of harmony. There is a lot of symbolism used in Japanese gardens, like adding a small ornamental bridge painted red for a ‘blessed pathway’, adding koi fish to your pond for strength and energy, or using images of a tortoise or crane to honor longevity. Water is an important element and can be used directly in a bird bath, pond or fountain or it can be represented by using river rock or gravel or designing in dry rivers and streams. The other elements of fire, air and earth all take part of the Japanese garden, too.
Color can help you add meaning to your landscape. Not only do certain colors have specific meanings, but you can add the element of ‘wood’ (earth) with greens and browns or ‘fire’ with reds or dark yellows.
You can study the proper details and transform your garden into a form of art. There is plenty of depth in the concept of the Oriental landscape design. Or you can just remember that there is little space in most of the small gardens in Japan, so the successful garden will simply celebrate the flow and beauty of nature in a clean, neat and harmonious picture that fits comfortably into your own space — large or small.