Japanese Inspirations for the Landscape and Garden Japanese Inspirations for the Landscape and Garden

Oriental gardens inspire many contemporary gardens today. Japanese tradition, especially, has inspired many garden designs, features and ornaments. Whether your garden is the size of a balcony or as large as an acre, your setting can be enhanced for both beauty and serenity with Japan-inspired touches.

While Japan is infamous for its crowed cities, it is equally famous for its serene courtyard gardens and pristine stretches of natural wilderness. Japan's natural landscape is filled with rocky terrain, mountains, lush forests, waterfalls and diverse plant life. Many of these elements can be reflected in your garden's design. Whether you want to completely replicate a Japanese garden or simply add a few touches of Oriental inspiration, consider the following ideas.

There are several functional landscape elements that can be revamped in the Japanese style. One obvious use of a Japanese feature is for privacy - bamboo fencing can be used to create a special corridor within the garden or possibly even to enclose an entire yard. Few elements can match bamboo for its Eastern appeal. Consider it to enclose a small herb garden or to border your yard from an alley or neighbor's property.

Decking is usually required in most landscapes. To employ decking in the oriental style, you may want to think in terms of platforms. For instance, ponds or streams often are flanked by square platforms that zig zag from one to another. This is a typical use of Japanese decking. Or, you might want to install a small platform elsewhere in the garden where a view is particularly fine. Keep your platform simple - the Japanese style is often that which is most naturalistic.

Of course, not all Japanese gardens are completely naturalistic. A more formal garden might benefit from a painted and lacquered wood bridge as opposed to rugged paint decking. Choose red paint and then coat with an outdoor sealer. However, you might also span your water feature with a series of submerged wood logs transformed into a footbridge. Such a feature is inherent with Japanese sensibilities.

This same water feature might also boast Japanese plantings. From water lilies to nearby ornamental cherry trees, many plants native to Japan can thrive in other settings around the world. Often one notices the characteristic pruned and trained trees of Japanese gardens. Such trees are pruned to reflect the windswept look of coastal trees. Bonsai creations can also be considered for your Japanese garden.

Consider the following plants for your Japanese garden:
  • Kurama Moss
  • Ostrich Fern
  • Plantain Lily
  • Japanese Cleyera
  • Amur Maple
  • Japanese Cypress
  • Japanese Quince
  • Yoshino Cherry
  • Iris
  • Weeping Forsythia
  • Dwarf Satsuki Azalea
  • Henon Bamboo,
  • Japanese Andromeda
  • Lilac
  • Pink Weigela
  • Lily Turf


When employing stone, consider installing arrangements of large rocks and small boulders for your landscape. Add a large boulder to the center of your garden pond. Ring some of your trees with pools of attractive gravel. Allow water to collect in the dips and indentions of large rocks so they act as basins. Line your paths with moss-covered river rocks or flagstones.

When it comes to props, there are many to consider in the Japanese style. A simple Japanese lantern makes an attractive lighting feature for the front porch or patio. A Japanese umbrella can offer shade to a platform. Small stone Japanese Ikekomi-gata lanterns can sit near water features and Japanese koi can be added to ponds (these require considerable care, however).

From simple fountains constructed of bamboo and stone to large scale waterfalls flanked by thick planks of wood, the Japanese garden design repertoire is varied and aesthetically pleasing to many tastes.

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