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A Japanese inspired garden


We had  to work on a small plot at the bottom of the garden  which was overshadowed by trees and didn’t get any sun. We designed this area into a Japanese inspired garden.

Flat Garden (Hiraniwa) style for a Japanese inspired garden

With the lack of contours in this area we had to go with the flat garden style.The flat style stems from the use of open, flat spaces in front of temples and palaces for ceremonies. These are often done in the karesansui style. This is a very Zen style (good for contemplation) and is representative of a seashore area (using the appropriate plants) Courtyards are always flat style gardens.

Garden Enclosures

A concept inherent in every Japanese garden is enclosure. The garden is seen to become a microcosm of nature. For the garden to be a true retreat, it must be sealed away from the outside world. We lined the boundary using Papillon thick red bamboo screening rolls from Primrose. It has a beautiful natural red colour that warmed the dark space.

Once it is enclosed, we had to create a method  to enter and leave our microcosm. Fences and gates are as important to the Japanese garden as lanterns and maples. The low bamboo gate supplied by Japan Gardens allows the visitor to glimpse the garden before entering. The fence insulates us from the outside world and the gate is the threshold where we both discard our worldly cares and then prepare ourselves to once again face the world.


Hide and reveal

The fence is also a tool to enhance yet another concept, miegakure, or hide and reveal using a sode-gaki, or sleeve fence. This is a fence to screen a specific view. We installing a Nori bamboo screen half way along the garden in order for the visitor not be able to view the garden  as a whole when entering.

Rock (Ishi)

Rocks are the bones of the Japanese garden. If you have properly placed your stones in the garden, the rest of the garden will lay itself out for you. The basic stones are the tall vertical stone, the low vertical stone, the arched stone, the reclining stone, and the horizontal stone. These stones are usually set in triads but this not always the case. Two similar stones (e.g., two tall verticals or two reclining stones), one just slightly smaller than the other, can be set together as male and female, but we usually use threes, fives, and sevens.

 We were fortunate enough to have three beautiful old stones in the garden which fitted perfectly within the rules.


Stepping stones

When setting stepping stones they should be between one and three inches above the soil, yet solid underfoot, as if rooted into the ground. We used log sleepers from B&Q. We also laid a permeable liner and added gravel.


Water (Mizu)

Japan is an island nation blessed with abundant rainfall. It is therefore not surprising that water is an intrinsic part of every garden. In the tea garden, water plays the most important role as one stops to perform the ritual cleansing at the chozubachi, or water basin. As the water fills and empties from the shishi-odoki, or deer scare, the clack of bamboo on rock helps mark the passage of time. We installed  a large Hasigo ladder deer scarer standing one metre high by 35cm wide and a submerged water reservoir covered with large stone. 

Ornaments (Tenkebutsu)

It is very important to remember that the ornament is subservient to the garden in a Japanese inspired garden, and not the other way around. Lanterns, stupas, and basins should be used as architectural accents and then only when a point of visual interest is necessary to the overall design.


Planting (Shokobutsu)

While plants play a secondary role to the stones in the garden, they are still a primary concern in the design. While the stones represent unchanging permanence, the trees, shrubs, and perennials help to display the passing of each season. 

It is important that native plants are used in the garden; it is in bad taste to use showy exotic plants. While certain trees and shrubs immediately conjure up the Japanese garden for us (pines, bamboo, cherries, maples, etc.), we should allow ourselves the latitude to use plants that we find pleasing. If we lean towards the evergreens as the main plant theme and accent it with deciduous material that provides seasonal blooms or foliage colour we can gain the look of the Japanese garden.

Garden lighting

We added lighting which spot lit corners of the garden, ensuring that the garden can be enjoyed all times and in all seasons.



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For more information contact us:

email: lifestylegardendesign@mail.com

Telephone: 07768 586383

2/1 West Grange Gardens, Edinburgh, EH9 2JB

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