A Japanese garden is created differently to western gardens, which rely mainly on flowers and visual appeal. These are rather more natural in style and modelled with spiritual and philosophical ideas in mind. Buildings and objects are usually positioned at an angle and paths wind around the garden so not all of the space can be seen at once.
There are several elements that contribute to a Japanese garden.
- Water symbolises renewal, calm, wonder and continuity. Time for reflection. Japanese gardens always have water, either a pond or stream or even a small cascade to represent the famous mountain waterfalls.
- Rocks and sand. Rocks can represent the earth whilst sand and gravel can represent a river. Rocks and water are yin and yang, complementing each other.
- Stone lanterns and water basins symbolises longevity and the forces of the nature. The Yukimi-gata lantern, or snow lantern were often used to line the path to the temple. Now used as decorative features in a garden they can provide a glow in the evening light. The water basins were originally placed in gardens for visitors to wash their hands and mouth before the tea ceremony. The water will usually come into the basin along a bamboo pipe and a ladle is provided in order to collect the water to clean the hands and mouth
- Garden Bridges are privileged sites for stopping to admire the beauty of the landscape. Zigzag bridges will protect you from evil spirits in the Japanese garden as the spirits can only travel in straight lines.
- Trees and flowers: Textures are important in a shady garden with large flat leaves contrasting with soft grasses that move in the breeze. Often shrubs are pruned into flat formations to look like flowing liquid or to create arching branches that reflect over water. Colour is provided through the planting of Japanese Maples, Cherry trees, Azaleas and Camellias and Wisteria. Pines, Gingkos and Bamboo are also favoured. The trees are carefully situated to show the best of their spring or autumn colours. Moss suggests that the garden is very old.
- Fish, especially golden carp, is used as a decorative element and brought in from the Chinese garden. Unfortunately the water was a little cloudy and the fish weren’t easy to spot
My six this week are taken from the Japanese Garden in St Mawgan, Cornwall which was a delight to visit during April’s sunny weather.
See here for the participant’s guide.