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Mastering the Look of a Japanese Garden

by Sarah Clark, All About Lawns Columnist

Japanese gardening has long been embraced by western gardeners. Living in a world that is increasingly chaotic, the Japanese garden - with its emphasis on serenity, contemplation, and quiet - has become increasingly appealing.

To seriously consider whether to cultivate a Japanese garden or just incorporate some of its elements in your existing garden, you'll first need to learn some of its defining characteristics.
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With its focus on simplicity, it comes as little surprise that Japanese gardening relies on just a few natural elements: sand, stone, and plants. During the 15th century Zen Buddhism ushered in one of the most common styles of Japanese garden: the dry landscape garden.

Dry Landscape or "Flat" Garden

Dry landscape gardens consist of sand, stone, and moss. Usually they take the form of a flat, geometric surface. The sand, or gravel, is raked into ripples to represent water. On top of the sand one or two vertical stones are placed at a distance from each other. Rocks are typically covered in moss. The simplicity of such gardens is intentional as their minimalist features are thought to promote a clear mind.

Strolling Garden

As its name suggests, strolling gardens are designed for slow, relaxing walks that promote tranquillity. Such gardens carry visitors along narrow footpaths that wind through moss-covered landscapes that change with every few steps. You'll encounter different arrangements of rocks, bushes, and wooded areas. Water also plays an important role in strolling gardens - you'll hear and see water falls and streams. A moon bridge will lead you over a pond reflecting the surrounding foliage. As with all Japanese gardens, the strolling garden is designed to promote relaxation.

Tea Garden

Tea gardens provide a special place for enjoying a much beloved tradition of the Japanese: tea drinking. These small tea houses, which are open and airy, often overlook a pond surrounded by large trees and other plants. Tea gardens are small, often consisting of no more than 300 square yards.

Japanese Gardening Tips

If you want to stay true to the Japanese gardening tradition, stay away from too much color. Rich hues of green dominate most Japanese gardens along with patches of white gravel and stones. Also, Japanese gardens - unlike classical French gardens - endeavour to embrace nature in its pristine form. Try to maintain a natural look and you'll likely be closer to aping the tranquil feeling enjoyed in an authentic Japanese garden.

About the Author
Sarah Clark is a freelance writer based in the Washington metro area.

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