The Japanese garden style is presently a favorite among garden enthusiasts. This is due to the fact that this garden design offers tranquility and balance to whoever is admiring the view.
With its Eastern charm, a Japanese garden combines particular elements, traditions, and concepts in its distinctive style.
In contrast to a Western garden, a Japanese garden is constructed to be enjoyed in every season. Continue reading if you want to design a garden that can be enjoyed throughout spring, summer, autumn, and winter!
- What is a Japanese Garden?
- Japanese Garden Design Ideas
- 1. Naturally Asymmetric
- 2. Arched Bridge
- 3. Wabi-Sabi Zen Garden
- 4. Bamboo in a Japanese Garden
- 5. Water features
- 6. Simple bamboo fountain
- 7. Japanese walking Garden
- 8. Garden with Japanese House
- 9. Moss Bed Garden
- 10. Waterside Zen Garden
- 11. Traditional Japanese Garden
- 12. Stone Lantern (Pagoda) Design Idea
- 13. Japanese Garden with a stone bench
- 14. Sea of stones in a Japanese Garden
- 1. Japanese Tea Garden
- 2. Japanese Rock Garden
- Bonus: Famous Japanese Gardens
- Japanese Garden Plants
- Frequently Asked Japanese Gardens Questions
- Final Thoughts on Japanese Gardens
What is a Japanese Garden?
It’s important to realize that ‘less is more’ when it comes to cultivating a Japanese garden. Others look at it as empty, however, for the Japanese; empty space is a feature in its own right.
In this style, features of the garden embody the landscape they came from, and the natural elements they’re made of. A rock becomes a mountain, a fountain becomes a river, and a potted plant becomes a tree.
With this in mind, lines and angles should not feel fabricated. It must feel natural, and imperfections should be retained.
Besides that, you will notice that Japanese gardens are ordinarily enclosed. It is rare to see these gardens open to the world. Customarily, gardens like these are surrounded by walls to ensure that outside factors will not disturb its balance.
Generally speaking, there are various kinds of Japanese gardens, such as Tea Gardens, Zen or Dry Rock Gardens, Walking Gardens, etc. Though naturally asymmetric and dry rock gardens are the best choice for your home and backyard, what matters is your ingenuity and innovation in combining various design ideas.
Japanese Garden Design Ideas
If you are looking into designing your own Japanese garden, here are a few of these design ideas that you can adapt to your own space. Remember you can blend garden styles in coming up with your personal Japanese garden.
1. Naturally Asymmetric
You often find water features like ponds, small streams, and fountains in Japanese gardens. Traditionally, you might find Koi Fish in these waterways, however, with the most expensive Koi being sold at 1.8 million, they might be a bit out of our price range.
Pictured above is a traditional, asymmetric Japanese garden. You can see how there are still imperfections on the rock features and shrubs.
The trees and grassy bits seem totally natural, and the general ambiance of the garden is meant to reflect a forest, not something man-made.
2. Arched Bridge
Just like our first idea, this one focuses on the arched bridge feature of many eastern gardens and parks. Traditionally, these bridges are made out of bamboo, which is something you can easily do yourself with the right guidance.
Arched bridges are commonly made of wood, stained colored, and can be made darker with red accents.
If you wanted to spice up your garden with only a couple of changes, why not install an arched bridge, bamboo or not, over some running water.
3. Wabi-Sabi Zen Garden
Prominent to the Japanese garden style is the element of ‘Wabi-Sabi’. In Japanese aesthetics, this basically means the acceptance of imperfections, a running theme in these garden design ideas!
In adopting this element, your garden will embody themes of simplicity, ruggedness, modesty, and intimacy.
You can see this in the picture above, with the owner of the garden adopting a simple and rough style – almost disorganized – that simply compliments the view of the city.
4. Bamboo in a Japanese Garden
As has been noted, bamboo, bridges, and statuettes are common in Japanese culture. Bamboo is one is the strongest plants in the world and can be bent to fit the kind of structure you want to build without sacrificing its integrity.
Bamboo is also known to have grown about 3 feet every single day! This makes it the fastest growing plant in the world.
So, if you want something that grows fast and gives an authentic feeling to your garden, this might be the way to go.
5. Water features
Another pervasive aspect of the Japanese style is the water feature. These come in many shapes and sizes: streams, ponds, waterfalls, fountains, etc.
Many of these features also happen to be integral to your Japanese garden! If you are going for a natural look that emphasizes the ‘feng-shui’ of your garden, then it might be good to combine these features with an assortment of rocks.
This is what the owner above has done, combining colorful yet subtle flora with bird statues, authentic greenery and piling up the rocks to give their garden the look of a real-life waterfall!
6. Simple bamboo fountain
Besides planting your own bamboo, adding bamboo fountains can be the perfect way to customize your own Japanese garden.
In the picture above, you can see a relatively simple design of a bamboo fountain, leading into a small stone bowl in a lush looking garden.
These fountains are relatively simple to make, they add a feeling of peace and serenity to your garden, and can be an excellent way to brag about your DIY skills to your neighbors.
Alternatively, if you feel like treating yourself, you can invest in a bamboo water fountain like the one below, sold by Amazon.
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7. Japanese walking Garden
Walking gardens are also very typical in Japanese designs. They typically consist of a stone path, gravel beds, and rope fences. This is a good design because it can be done almost anywhere.
To begin, you’ll first need the gravel bed as a foundation, you’ll then need to get some large flat rocks to use as stepping stones and lay these out as your path. Design this path to your liking; weaving it through your favorite features in your garden to impress your guests.
8. Garden with Japanese House
This type of house or cabin is fairly common in many Japanese households. As a matter of fact, these types of structures are ideal for meditating or appreciating nature.
So why not create your own? With a little hard work, this could be your own personal meditation retreat and ‘zen corner’.
Of course, this would require the man-hours and raw materials, but if you’re looking for a truly unique Japanese garden design idea, this would be the way to go.
9. Moss Bed Garden
Moss offers a sense of old age and rustic charm. The ‘Sabi’ part of the ‘Wabi-Sabi’ we mentioned earlier focuses on age and time, so Introducing moss on your garden touches on that aspect.
Mosses can basically grow on any hard surface. Our advice is, like the picture above, to first spread out your gravel bed, before placing some larger rocks in the center and covering them in moss.
Mist your moss regularly and water about twice a week. Remember to use filtered water!
10. Waterside Zen Garden
Another great design idea is the place your Japanese garden next to a body of water: a lake, river, or pond, etc.
This doesn’t just look amazing, it will also allow the growth of tonnes of natural water plants. These types of plants tend to have a luscious green color and will add an amazing feeling to your garden.
11. Traditional Japanese Garden
Above is a more traditional attempt to create a Japanese garden. In this one, many of the elements and features described in this article are combined to create an authentic ‘far-eastern’ feeling.
The key, as always, is to create something that feels natural. Make your winding walkway flow around pretty rocks, dense shrubs, and antique stone lanterns to simulate the kind of place you might find people taking a meditative walk in ancient Japan!
12. Stone Lantern (Pagoda) Design Idea
If you really want to highlight the Zen of your Japanese garden, then why not simply bring some of these ancient-looking stone lanterns (otherwise known as Pagodas) into the mix.
Place it in between your greens to light up at night to give your garden a mystical vibe! Alternatively, you could place a ring of them around your garden to illuminate the area for when you have guests.
These Pagodas are so great because they work really well as both supplementary features, or as a centerpiece.
If you’re interested, here’s one of our favorites.
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13. Japanese Garden with a stone bench
Since Japanese gardens are famous for providing a space for meditating and contemplating, why not add a bench?
You can relax here, possibly raking some zen patterns into the sand or gravel.
You can also install outside garden lights to allow you to unwind at night.
14. Sea of stones in a Japanese Garden
Instead of placing small groups of rugged-looking rocks around your garden, as in traditional Japanese designs, you could rather opt for a ‘sea of stones’.
As pictured above, this means making your garden look like some kind of pre-historic waterfall, who wouldn’t want that?!
This type of garden is suitable for those with generous space and it still exhibits the asymmetry and balance concept. See how soothing this space is?
Of course, not everyone has this kind of space… Watch the video below to find out how to build a slightly smaller version.
So those were our 14 favorite Japanese garden ideas, we hope they were of some help. Besides those, though, we also have a couple of more general ideas that might help with a bit of inspiration.
1. Japanese Tea Garden
In essence, Tea Gardens are blended with Japanese Gardens. These types of gardens normally function as a place to entertain and feed guests.
Tea gardens are normally made up of an outer area to take a stroll in, as well as a small structure in which to serve tea.
For the most part, the outer garden includes a low gate and a stone path leading to the entryway of the Teahouse where tea parties are being held. These tea gardens are common in Japan nowadays and form an essential part of Japanese culture.
2. Japanese Rock Garden
The Japanese Rock Garden is also known as a dry rock garden or landscape garden. However, it is distinguishable from the common rock garden since instead of being surrounded with plant life the Japanese rock garden includes minimal or no plants at all.
Normally comprised of dry rock, gravel, sand, and huge standing rocks, this garden style is meant as a personal project which illustrates one’s reflections. Fundamentally, gravel or sand embodies water and sizable rocks signify islands.
Bonus: Famous Japanese Gardens
As a little bit of extra inspiration, below are some well-known Japanese gardens from throughout the world.
Anderson Japanese Gardens
Located in Rockford, Illinois USA, the Anderson Japanese Gardens opened in 1978. Founder John R. Anderson took inspiration from his travels to Japan and Portland Japanese Garden. This famous garden showcases pristine design, wonderful walkways, and an assortment of fish, minks, and ducks.
Shofuso Japanese House and Garden
This famous Japanese Garden is situated in West Fairmount Park, Philadelphia USA. It boasts breathtaking scenery, serene ponds, and a classic Japanese house.
These gardens are known as part of the best three Japanese gardens in the United States.
If you pay them a visit, you can see many traditional shows and functions that take place in the house.
Portland Japanese Garden
A stunning Japanese Garden opened in 1967 in Portland, Oregon USA.
This renowned garden is designed by Professor Takuma Tono. Pictures of its spectacular maple trees have gone viral all over the world.
In visiting this garden, you will encounter a variety of plants, walking paths, and pristine designs to inspire your own garden at home.
Adachi Museum of Art
The Adachi Museum of Art in Yasugi, Japan boasts a fabulous modern Japanese art collection. However, aside from this, a myriad of visitors flock to its remarkable lush garden encircling the museum.
This popular site has frequently received accolades from gardening magazines as one of the best Japanese gardens.
This marvelous garden’s name alludes to the fact that it captures scenes from famed Japanese poems.
Found in Tokyo, the Rikugien Japanese Garden features hills surrounding a large pond and intertwining trails.
It is a surprisingly serene area in Japan’s busiest city. So if on your travels, you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, this would be an excellent place to visit.
Japanese Garden Plants
To finish off our article, below are several garden plants that are commonly found in Japanese gardens. We’ve also featured some links to where you can buy them, so you can complete your own garden.
For Japanese gardeners blessed with water features, the Lotus plant is a vital addition.
Seeing a mature Lotus blooming is admirable. It has grown leaves that are three feet in diameter. Home gardeners also should not dismay because they can produce dwarf varieties of the plant in wood barrels or midsize ponds. In this case, gardeners must be careful that the roots do not freeze.
If plagued with a sodden area in your garden, you can opt to plant Japanese irises that thrive on moisture all throughout the year.
This plant is continually starving not only for fertilizer but also for water. Be that as it may, it will compensate you with flower stalks that are up to five feet tall. The only thing left for you to do is separate old clumps every few years.
- Economical 4 Inch Starter Size Plant Growing In A 4 Inch Starter Size Pot. Plant will average 6 to...
- Great for shady nooks and corners
- Striking, small, slightly fragrant, bright yellow flowers with brown speckled throats
Bamboos are a regular figure within Japanese gardens. This is because Bamboos are everywhere in Japan!
For example, when bamboo is harvested in Japan, it’s used in homes for chopsticks, fences, and fans, etc.
Remember when choosing bamboos to use opt for the clumping type instead of the ones that spread by runners. Those types are invasive and even prohibited in some regions.
Like many other plants, Japanese bamboo prospers on shade and frequent moisture; however, avoid watering beyond the normal limits.
- LUCKY BAMBOO – a well-known plant for bringing good fortune and one key element in feng shui in...
- TAKING CARE OF BAMBOO PLANT – a bamboo plant grows fine in a vase filled with pebbles with an inch...
- TRIMMING A LUCKY BAMBOO – cutting the main stalk of the lucky bamboo is not a good idea. You can...
On one hand, you will see these trumpet-shaped flowers in various hues of yellow, salmon, pink, red, white and violet.
For centuries, Japanese gardeners cultivated Azaleas; however, at present, modern hybridizers have discovered reblooming azaleas. No need to wait for spring to adore this thriving shrub.
Take note that these plants flourish in moisture, however, they will perish in damp winter soil.
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Last in our list are Hosta plants. The naturalized types found throughout Japan are natural and authentic, especially compared to the North American hybrids.
Getting this plant in various sizes, shade, shape, and appearance can build you a rich garden wholly comprised of Hostas.
While irrigation is substantial in growing Hosta, however, keep in mind this Japanese plant is vulnerable to fungal disease and crown rot brought on by excessive wet conditions.
- 10 Mixed Hosta Plants - All colors, sizes and textures
- Hardy zones 3-8 - Attracts Hummingbirds!
- Bright green, blue, gold and chartreuse foliage with white or white and lavender flowers - some...
Frequently Asked Japanese Gardens Questions
Have you ever wondered whether a Japanese garden will work for you? The good news is almost anyone can have a successful one as long as they have the right know-how. Here are some frequently asked questions our readers have asked to help you get started off on the right foot:
What are the factors that make up a Japanese garden?
There are several different factors that make up a traditional Japanese garden. Some of these include rocks, bridges, water features, and plants. If you’re ready to get yours started, check out our Japanese garden inspiration guide to get you started.
Are Japanese gardens expensive?
There is a Japanese garden design that is right for almost any budget. If you have a modest bank account, you can purchase features for your garden at a slow pace or save up for the bigger features. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your Japanese garden be!
What is the purpose of a Japanese garden?
The purpose of a Japanese garden is to add a slice of serenity into your life. They are a perfect addition to any backyard, regardless of size or location. So, if you’re looking for a way to boost the zen in your garden, try the Japanese approach! You can also check out our gardening design inspiration ideas if you wish to add a little extra flair.
Final Thoughts on Japanese Gardens
To sum up, Japanese gardens are primarily organic and natural in design. Essential in achieving this Japanese style garden is to include the principles and elements which are everywhere in Japanese culture.
Adding these aspects will ensure that you attain that tranquility and balance renowned in this kind of garden.
Either way, while the garden design ideas listed above will assist you in starting your garden project, it is still your ingenuity and innovation that will create your own ‘Wabi-Sabi’ in your garden.
Equally important in Japanese gardens is the balance. The elements you include in your garden should work well with other features to create the landscape.
You will normally see stone lanterns, Japanese plants, or other Asian structures incorporated into the design but take note that these are strategically placed to keep the style in perfect balance.
Additionally, in caring for the plants in your garden, ensure that it is considerably irrigated but not overwhelming that it will suffer from diseases or rot.
Again, the Japanese garden provides a place for practitioners of the self-healing arts to meditate and contemplate. Thus, it is vital that the space they are in is serene and tranquil, within nature, to help them achieve a feeling of peace.
From a simple penchant for yellow flowers as a child to becoming a full-time gardener, nature advocate, and garden designer, I am extremely happy to finally have a platform for me to successfully spread knowledge and expertise in the garden. After graduation, I took many courses related to garden design to feed myself with more knowledge and expertise other than what I learned from my mom growing up while also joining as many garden design competitions locally. For any garden design inquiries, I’m your designer!