The first thing that greets you as you step into a Japanese garden is the calmness and serenity of the place. The Japanese gardens reflect men’s efforts at harmonizing the beauty and force of the nature in an effortless fashion. With the essential presence of water body, thin streams, short bridges or artificial hillocks created with gravels and rocks; in the final shape the Japanese gardens become resonant with the mellow notes of spirituality and tranquility.
You can find three basic styles when it comes to Japanese gardens:
- Hill and Pond (Chisen-Kaiyu-skiki)
- Flat Garden (Hiraniwa)
- Tea Gardens (Rojiniwa)
The basic rules are more or less same, while the particular features are incorporated in lieu with the specific type of the garden.
In the Japanese gardens you will come to find a rare bonding with nature. Despite the use of many artificial structural elements like bridges or water bodies or artificially created hills, Japanese gardens are created to reflect the nature in her most unadulterated form. Thus "harmonious asymmetry" becomes the rule for Japanese gardeners and simplicity becomes the inspiration behind their work. If you are going to recreate the Japanese magic in your garden, then follow the thumb rules described below.
The illusion of time and space
To the eyes accustomed to European style of gardening, where the perfectly manicured plants vie for your attention in every possible nook and corners of the garden, Japanese gardens may seem to offer an illusion of emptiness at a first glance. There are so many things, yet the garden looks so vast and spacious---this trick of space management is the first lesson with regard to the Japanese style of gardening.
Selection of plants
The Japanese gardens try to reflect the permanence of nature. That is why it is the evergreen trees that become the dominating feature of Japanese gardens. The plants in the Japanese gardens represent the seasonal cycles. Because of this selection, the Japanese gardens are not discarded during the winters. The essence of the four seasons can nowhere be better felt than in the changing appearance of Japanese garden through the year.
Bringing the balance
In an ode to nature, the Japanese gardens strive to represent the nature in a miniscule, but in its closest form. As for example, in a Japanese garden, you can not accommodate a pond that is a perfect square in shape. Because nature never produced s such a geometrical wonders. Similarly, in your pursuit of imitating nature, you have also to incorporate the spirit of balance. As for example to create a mountain in your small garden, you can make use of the small rocks, but not the huge ones.
Creating the right enclosure has great symbolic value. The fencing is created with the aim of locking up the serenity inside the garden uninterrupted by the goings on in the outside world. Sometimes, small windows are created on the solid walls to lure the passer by with the beauty that lies inside the garden enclosure.
Ornamentation with the lanterns
No Japanese garden is ever complete with stone lanterns in variety of designs and styles. There are three main varieties of lanterns that are used in the Japanese gardens: the Kasuga style lantern, the Oribe style lanterns and the Yukimi or Snow-Viewing lantern.
In short, Japanese gardens are the reflection of natural balance between change and constancy. A little introduction to Zen philosophy can prepare you for the better perception about the Japanese style of gardening.