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Elements of the Japanese Water Garden

Posted on Jan 21, 2014 in Featured, Water Gardens

Water gardens have become increasingly popular in modern homes, and they are a great way of decorating your yard and turning it into an oasis of peace and relaxation, as close to nature as possible. There are parts of the world where having a water garden is quite natural and traditional, in countries such as England or Japan. Today we are going to focus on the Japanese tradition of constructing gardens, and look at some of the elements that make them so special. A Japanese water garden is more than just an arrangement of plants, flowers, water and koi fish; it follows certain standards, or rather philosophies, and the gardener or landscape artist can leave a trace of themselves in the garden’s story.

A normal water garden and a Japanese water garden do have some things in common, but the latter does have some strict characteristics, whereas the first can use whatever elements you want. If you want wild, savage water gardens, then you can have them, but they will be the opposite of a Japanese water garden, where order is present, but in a way that soothes the mind, and in a non-invasive way, without bothering the eye.

If you want to have such a garden as well, you don’t necessarily have to follow all the rules; besides, it might be a bit difficult to find the types of plants, to scout for round-shaped rocks, or to build bridges just to have a Japanese water garden. Take whatever elements you like best, or which you have access to, and incorporate them into a garden to your own liking. For example, stones, gravel and sand are very important elements in a Japanese garden, but if space is an issue, you can skip the stone arrangements or the sinewy alleys; besides, these are rather religious elements, and if you can’t do them right, it’s better not to do them at all. Instead, you can draw inspiration from these materials, and think of some way to use them, and to introduce them into your vision of the garden.

The Japanese water garden usually represents lakes or seas that are part of Asian mythology; if you want to do some research and imitate popular lakes from other water gardens, you can do so, but the simplest way of making your garden look more Japanese is by adding koi fish to your pond. Of course, you will have to create a special habitat for them, make sure you choose the right number of fish for the space you have, and basically learn about fish and pond maintenance, something which is not very easy for beginners. If your pond is big enough, and you also have the budget for decorations and special additions, try to build a domed bridge over the water; if you paint it red, you’ve ticked two elements which are important in this culture. The red represents fire, which is an essential element of  nature, and the bridge symbolizes the communion between man and nature. Some interesting elements are the stone lanterns, which you can perhaps find at special garden stores, or have them build by someone who can work with this material.

All in all, you don’t have to go all the way to Japan in order to bring a bit of Asian tranquility into your life; if you find the peace and inspiration within you, you’ll be able to create the perfect space, a combination between vision and thought.