Japanese Outdoor Garden Landscaping

Japanese Outdoor Garden Landscaping

Garden design has been an important Japanese art for many centuries. Traditional Japanese landscape gardens can be broadly categorized into three types, Tsukiyama Gardens (hill gardens), Karesansui Gardens (dry gardens) and Chaniwa Gardens (tea gardens).

Tsukiyama Gardens Ponds, streams, hills, stones, trees, flowers, bridges and paths are used to create a miniature reproduction of a natural scenery which is often a famous landscape in China or Japan. The name Tsukiyama refers to the creation of artificial hills. Tsukiyama gardens vary in size and in the way they are viewed. Smaller gardens are usually enjoyed from a single viewpoint, such as the veranda of a temple, while many larger gardens are best experienced by following a circular scrolling path.

Karesansui gardens reproduce natural landscapes in a more abstract way by using stones, gravel, sand and sometimes a few patches of moss for representing mountains, islands, boats, seas and rivers. Karesansui gardens are strongly influenced by Zen Buddhism and used for meditation.

Chaniwa gardens are built for the tea ceremony. They contain a tea house where the actual ceremony is held and are designed in aesthetic simplicity according to the concepts of sado (tea ceremony). Chaniwa gardens typically feature stepping stones that lead towards the tea house, stone lanterns and a stone basin (tsukubai), where guests purify themselves before participating in the ceremony.

Rock Gardens, Japanese Zen Gardens

Landscaping with rock is an art. When constructing rock gardens the plantings betwixt the rocks take center stage. Rock gardening articles cover design of alpine and rock gardens, including Zen and Japanese gardens, an making faux rock. Plants to use in rock gardening include moss, ferns, succulents, lichens, euphorbia’s, and water plants for use in conjunction with backyard ponds.

Japanese garden landscapes provide homeowners with a place for meditative thought and relaxation. According to Bowdoin College, Japanese gardens were first created as way of connecting to nature and religious beliefs. There are numerous common elements that are generally found in Japanese gardens, such as pathways, stones, ponds and bridges. Trees and shrubbery are also often used as natural decorative elements in a Japanese garden. In addition, many gardens of this type were built to compliment the surrounding scenery. A clear plan for your Japanese garden is essential for creating a space that is peaceful in its simplicity, rather than a chaotic, overdone interpretation.


The karesansui garden, also known as a natural landscape or rock garden, is one of three types of Japanese gardens. It makes use of gravel, pebbles, boulders, sand, smooth stones and moss. Rock gardens have their roots in Zen Buddhism and are specifically designed for meditation and reflection. Depending on its design, a rock garden’s form can bring to mind mountainous landscapes, flowing rivers or islands in the sea.

Zen Rock Garden

Large hand-placed rocks border a Zen garden that’s been raked into a pattern. Zen rock gardens often incorporate the elements of yin and yang to strike a balance between opposite ideas within one place of reflection. They’re usually in-ground and sectioned off. Clear the area of all other rocks and plantings, shape and excavate until it’s even. A rectangular space filled with small, smooth, monochromatic pebbles and nothing else is an example of a very simple Zen rock garden. The rocks themselves are considered “Zen,” or meditative, but further aspects of Zen persuasion develop by raking perfectly straight lines into the rectangular bed. You can also rake stripes interrupted by untouched, solid sections of rock. Some Zen Buddhists re-groom their rock gardens daily, creating different patterns, including asymmetrically placed circles surrounded by straight lines. A Zen garden can be situated on flat ground, making use of perfectly straight borders, but they’re equally as successful contained by curved borders, or on a hillside. Design inside a curved-boarder bed tends to take its direction from the shape of the border.

Natural Rock Garden

The primary rocks used in natural rock gardens are boulders. The Japanese also make use of natural rock gardens. As the name implies, the garden is meant to look as though it occurred naturally, much like a wildflower garden. A natural rock garden has very few, if any, groomed elements and is characterized by a large amount of boulders. The boulders may seem to be randomly placed, when in fact they’re placed with great care to provide seating with specifically thought-out views. Like other Japanese rock gardens, the natural garden is meant to prompt visitor reflection. You don’t have to clear plantings and other landscape features to accommodate the boulders—the overall look and feel of the area is that of an untouched place. However, since most Japanese gardens have a heavy element of order, adding a winding, groomed gravel path to a natural rock garden will help balance its natural energy with Japanese order.

Rock Garden Landscape

A rock garden landscape is similar to a Zen garden in that it’s in-ground, requires space cleared of previous landscape features and is normally groomed. It takes further direction from Zen Buddhism by offering the visitor another dimension of reflection: the suggestion of grandiose landscapes in a small area. The concept behind rock garden landscapes is similar to the idea of a bonsai tree: the viewer is able to discern or imagine a full-sized tree and the landscape beneath it within a miniature, potted tree. A large boulder placed in the middle of a groomed rock bed may take on the look of an island in a wavy sea. Several large, well-chosen boulders carefully situated among smooth, multi-colored pebbles and partially covered in green moss can remind the viewer of a tranquil, mountainous region. Circular and swirling patterns groomed into the bed are reminiscent of water. Borders of larger, individually-placed rocks frame the landscape.

Above all, a Japanese garden highlights nature with aesthetic design. Traditional aspects, combined with modern tastes, make the garden adaptable to many landscapes. A Japanese garden can provide a place for walking, meditating and displaying prized plants. Create a sanctuary with the use of natural materials, plants, architecture and feature elements.

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