Elements of Japanese Gardens

Which garden style you choose, and what it contains, will depend on many things. You'll need to look at the size of the area you have to plant, the climate and conditions in the place you live, and the purpose of the garden. Do you want a retreat from the world, or an open space to enjoy the sun with your family? Do you like to work in the garden, keeping edges trimmed and beds tidy, or would you rather put your plants in and let them grow as they will? The elements of Japanese gardens can be incorporated and adapted to suit whatever style you prefer.

Every Japanese garden relies on the same set of basic features: rocks, water, and plants; buildings, bridges, and walls; lighting and shade; and landscape, whether in miniature or in the land surrounding the garden. In some cases, as in the Zen rock gardens, some of these features are replaced by others. For example, raked sand representing rippling water. In others, certain features are highlighted by the fact of their absence: the inward-facing tea garden makes you aware of the world beyond the garden by ensuring that the outside landscape is entirely hidden.

But the feature that is most important, and is common to all of the garden types, is what makes the difference between an authentic Japanese garden and one that merely uses some of its symbols - the sense that the garden is perfectly suited to where it is and what it contains. As we mentioned before, the rules of design are so deeply buried in tradition that often unless you know exactly what to look for, it's hard to see that a Japanese garden has been "designed" because it may look completely natural. On the other hand, just putting a stone lantern in the middle of your petunia patch won't turn it into a tea garden.
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