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How To Create A Peaceful Japanese Style Garden Space

Wednesday 14 April 2021 12:10

If you’re looking for a tranquil space to enjoy all year round, there’s nothing quite like your own stunning Japanese garden.

Contrary to popular belief, anyone can create a Japanese style garden in just about any space, big or small - all it takes is a little planning, the right materials and some creativity. 

For over 1000 years, Japanese gardens have been created to capture and replicate the essence of natural landscapes, and their beauty has inspired avid gardeners of varying cultures from across the world to transform their outdoor areas into beautiful miniature landscapes.

What is a Japanese style garden?

A Japanese style garden is designed to reflect the essence and natural beauty of a landscape with a simple and minimalist design. 

The primary goal is to inspire a sense of inner peace, harmony and reflection, and this is achieved in part due to vibrant, colourful planting schemes and creative use of feature stones, water, Japanese garden gravel and Japanese garden ornaments.

Can Japanese style gardens be designed for small gardens?

Japanese gardens are ideal for smaller spaces. They are easy to create and add a unique look to any garden or outdoor space - all that is required is some lighter coloured gravel, garden standing stones or feature stones and complementary plants or small trees.

Are Japanese style gardens expensive to create? 

Japanese garden can be an inexpensive project suitable for most gardens. However, the introduction of any special additions such as ponds, waterfalls and large rockeries may increase the cost of the project.

It is important to understand that Japanese gardens are designed to be simple, subtle and can be created with limited material requirements, making them an ideal theme for any garden size and budget. 

Materials required for creating a Japanese style garden space

  • Lighter coloured decorative gravel such as white or grey.

  • Stylish feature stones.

  • Japanese garden rake or ordinary rake.

  • Drilled monoliths for creating water features or undrilled monoliths for creating an attractive, natural focal point (optional).

  • Slate chippings for border detail (optional).

  • Weed prevention membrane.

  • Assorted Japanese garden plants (including outdoor bonsai plants or trees).

  • Topsoil and compost for any plants, shrubs or trees. If you plan on adding bonsai trees to your Japanese garden, these should remain in a shallow pot and elevated on a table, flat stone structure or slab. 

  • Marker spray or string for marking out your rockery area.

  • Spade for moving soil.

  • Trowel for planting.

How to create a Japanese style garden space

There are several different styles and themes for Japanese gardens that all build upon a particular element, such as water or feature stones. 

Often referred to as ‘Zen’ gardens, Japanese rock gardens are one of the most common themes chosen for Japanese gardens as they are simple to design and can be created on a budget. 

Step 1 - Choose your Japanese style garden gravel, feature stones, rocks and plants

To create a Japanese style rock garden, you will require an assorted collection of decorative gravel and feature stones

Rocks and plants are carefully composed to resemble a miniature stylised landscape. Lighter coloured gravel is spread evenly across the landscape and raked to mimic the gentle ripples formed by water. 

Popular gravels used to create the water-like ripple effect for Japanese gardens are lovely light grey 14-20mm Dove Grey Limestone Gravel and the striking cream 20mm Polar White Marble

Every Japanese garden needs feature stones to create attractive centrepieces and to capture the essence of a landscape. Graphite Grey Slate Rockery stones provide a gentle contrast against the brighter, lighter coloured gravels. However, for a more natural and rustic look, lighter coloured Welsh Quartz Granite Boulders look stunning.

However, if you’re looking to capture the element of water in your design, an attractive water feature really adds to the tranquil feel of a Japanese zen garden. Drilled Slate Monoliths are an attractive choice for any Japanese garden as they can be transformed into beautiful water features.

What plants and trees are suitable for a Japanese garden?

  • Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)

  • Japanese White Pine (Pinus parviflora)

  • Bamboo (Fargesia and Phyllostachys)

  • Lotus (N. Nucifera & N. Lutea)

  • Ornamental Cherry (Prunus ‘Kursar’)

  • Chinese Elm (Ulmus parvifolia)

  • Black Pine (Pinus nigra)

  • Azalea (Rhododendron)

Step 2 - Mark out the area

Planning is key, and it is important to consider the space you have available prior to making a design decision. Contrary to popular belief, you do not require a large garden to create a beautifully scenic Japanese garden styled area, and a few square meters is enough for an attractive gravelled area.

Water is often incorporated into Japanese style gardens. If space allows, consider marking out an area for a small pond.

It is also important to consider where any monoliths or feature stones will be placed, so leave plenty of space to allow each unique feature stone to stand out. We’d recommend leaving a space of at least 1 meter between each feature stone, standing stone or rockery.

Step 3 - Prepare the graveled area

Firstly, clear the marked area of debris and dig to a depth of around 4 inches (10cm). This will leave enough depth to allow you create beautiful ripples with a rake without exposing the base, however this works best with smaller sized gravel. To prevent any weeds from disrupting the Japanese garden gravel, a weed prevention membrane is ideal.

Step 4 - Lay your gravel and install any feature stones or water features

Once you have prepared the area, it is time to install any water features, feature stones, Japanese ornaments, rocks or plants. Once these are in place, shovel your gravel into the prepared area - ideally onto a weed prevention membrane. 

Once the gravel is in place and depending on the size of the Japanese garden space, you may wish to create a ripple effect in the gravel using a rake. This is done to represent the peaceful flow of water, however this is entirely optional. Remember, this is your space and there are no rules - only guidelines!


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