Japanese gardens immediately evoke a sense of calm and serenity. When I think of Japanese gardens I envision mossy granite stepping stones meandering through a shady forest and delicate yellow Gingko leaves fallen on the ground. I think of gravel and evergreens and maybe even a trickle of water. Why is this, and what makes Japanese gardens different from other garden styles?
Traditional Japanese gardens are a true art form creating stunning, graceful and dynmanic combinations with stone, gravel or plants. Evergreen plants provide a calm backdrop for seasonal blooms and autumn leaves. Color is used sparingly to provide the most impact amongst the evergreens. The use of a majority of evergreens creates an immediate sense of tranquility because many different leaf and flower colors can be stimulating to the viewer.
Detailed paths make you slow down to observe the detail of what the path is made of, as well as intentionally guide you in different directions to appreciate views. Rather than strong axially views, Japanese gardens are more natural and full of discovery. Meandering stepping stones with moss, or paved stone paths combining smooth pebbles and rough irregular granite pieces create art under your feet.
Balance is valued over symmetry. Boulders, in groups of different shapes and odd numbers are selected and placed strategically to mimmick the random beauty of wild mountains. Hard boulders are softened by carpets of gravel or groundcover below to echo the rivulets of water. Hard boulders are softened by a trickle of water to mimick waterfalls or the sound of rain.
While there are many more subtle and complex components of a traditional Japanese garden, it is easy to be inspired by how they make you feel. Whether you are lucky enough to walk through one and experience it, or just by looking at images, think of what appeals most to you about Japanese gardens and try to incorporate that into your own garden. Here are a few images of Japanese inspired gardens we’ve installed over the years.