Plant the Look - Japanese garden
Have you always dreamt of a Japanese style garden?

Do you wish you could be taking a trip to a Tokyo temple right now, while Sugiyama's Dragon Quest plays in your airpods?

We show you how to create the look of a Japanese garden in your own back yard.


Japanese Style Gardens - sound of silence

raked gravel in a temple garden There are two notable - and similar - styles of gardening which come to mind when thinking about Japan.

The first style of Japanese garden is the temple garden.

Japanese temple gardens are known for the neatness, their precise lines of raked gravel, their carefully-positioned rocks, and their carefully-trimmed shrubberies.

These gardens are all about attention to detail.

There may be very few plants in them, to non-Japanese garden tastes - perhaps a small clump of ornamental grass, a pruned ancient pine, or a bonsai tree on a pedestal, taking pride of place.


moss and water

With everything in the space squared away, and in its rightful place, the mind is free to meditate without distraction.

There is often an emphasis on sound - clattering canes of bamboo, water rhythmically dripping into a bowl, or wind softly rustling through leaves.

Moss is encouraged to grow.

Colour is kept to a minimum, except for a glorious blaze of autumn shades from a single Japanese acer or golden ginkgo tree; or the delicate spring blossom of the Sakura cherry.

Hanami, or cherry blossom viewing, has strong cultural significance for many Japanese people.



Japanese Style Gardens - calm reflection

water, grass, red bridgeThe second style of Japanese garden is more naturalistic and lush, but with that fastidious neatness in place.

There is usually a body of still water, to reflect the sky, and double the view of the garden. Weeping trees dip their branches into the water, just as they do in the old willow pattern china.

Grasses arch over the river banks. Groundcover junipers form dense green carpets.

An arched bridge, painted red, gives the full authentically-Japanese look.


acer, pine, trickling waterThere's shady walkways and restful waterways, gentle cascades and rustling grasses - enjoyment for the ears as well as the eyes.

Rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, and other flowering evergreens from this part of the world are clipped to rounded silhouettes, mimicking the shaping effect of wind on plants.

Most of these flowering plants prefer a humus-rich, moist, acid soil, and a little dappled shade to grow healthy and bloom well.

If you don't have this soil type in your garden, grow them in a big glazed pot filled with ericaceous compost.

Amid the restful green, a pop of bright year-round colour from a red acer or gold-leaved conifer.


plants for the Japanese look

Japanese Style Gardens - get the look

Essential plants to get that Japanese look are azaleas and camellias, of course; cut-leaf Japanese acers; nandina or sacred bamboo, for foliage colour; and small-leafed evergreen shrubs like box, privet, and dwarf honeysuckle.

Encourage the moss to grow in shady places.

Add a little drama with big glossy leaves of Fatsia japonica; tall tiger grass for sound and shade; and colour from summer-flowering lilies, spring-flowering blossom, and winter-flowering quince.

If you really get into the Japanese vibe, try your hand at bonsai too.