The exacting tradition, linked to the related and equally disciplined arts of calligraphy and Japanese ink brush painting, is historically passed down from sensei, or master, to apprentice.
Even though Japanese Gardens have been influenced by the West since the late 19th century, there are some elements that are considered typical, and in some respects, necessary to the art form. Water, either real or symbolic is a must. Bridges or stepping stones frequently cross a pond or stream element to an island, or perhaps to a tea pavilion. Rocks or stone arrangements create waterfalls, dry or wet. Hedges, fences or traditionally styled walls create an enclosure around the miniature landscape.
There are three basic traditional styles of Japanese gardens. The Karesausui gardens are dry landscapes in which different shades and shapes of rocks and gravel, as well as exactingly placed mosses and shrubs are used to represent ponds, islands, rivers, seas, boats and mountains in abstract form. Raking stretches of gravel or sand creates the illusion of moving water. This type of garden is for meditation and is frequently found at Zen temples.
The Tsukiyami garden style recreates features from famous landscapes in China or Japan. The clever placing of shrubs to block views of surrounding houses or structures is effective in creating the illusion of a much larger garden area. Footpaths may wander past ponds, streams, stones and hills and may lead the visitor across intricately carved bridges. Bonsai trees, scaled down versions of their full sized cousins, are an important part of these miniature landscapes.
Chianwa gardens were created for holding tea ceremonies, another exacting and quite lovely Japanese tradition. A simple tea house is the usual focal point, and the gardens themselves are equally simplistic in their elegance. Traditionally stepping stones across a quiet pond lead to the tea house and an assortment of stone lanterns and basins dot the garden landscape. The stone basins, known as Tuskubai, are where guests are invited to purify themselves before taking part in the tea ceremony.
In addition to these three basic styles, Kanshoh style gardens are popular in private residences and are meant to be viewed from inside. Pond gardens, built along quiet shorelines, are designed to be viewed from a boat. Strolling gardens take visitors along winding pathways, offering a sequence of views as one navigates the gentle curves.
If you've grown a container garden or two but want to advance your gardening and decorating skills, Japanese garden design is the way to go. This ancient form of garden design was created to promote peace and tranquility. You can be relaxing in your own paradise in no time by including these 5 key ingredients in your garden.
Moss. Adding plants like tufted moss to your garden makes the space look like a retreat, and allows you to focus on relaxing and renewing your strength. You can put the moss at the entryway and throughout the sides of the garden for a welcoming but secluded feel.
Stone lantern. A Japanese stone lantern will make a space look mysterious and alluring. You may even want to put a few hanging baskets around the lantern to bring more attention to the plants. A container herb garden would look nice around the lantern as well. The lantern not only helps to conserve energy, but gives your Japanese garden design a warm, exotic look.
'Planting' other gardens. Even though your container garden or organic seed plants may be the focus of your garden, you can also include other gardens in the scenery to make your Japanese garden design complete. A sand garden is great if you've planting things like cactus or bonsai trees and a Zen stone garden goes well with any plants in your garden.