Q. How can I enjoy Japanese tranquility in my garden?

Dawn Isaac brings Oriental flavour to a new suburban plot.

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Traditional Japanese gardens are one of the hardest to create. Every part of them is carefully thought out and planned to reflect a philosophical or aesthetic quality. Of course you could study the art of Japanese garden design and try doggedly to learn all the rules and nuances of the various styles, but this might take years. Instead, throw your hands up and declare you are simply looking for some Japanese inspiration! This way you can take elements that work for you and adapt others to suit your own taste.
For most of us it’s about creating a garden that’s serene and soothing; a space that encourages you to sit and contemplate. A Japanese garden is restrained in its colour palette, and mostly populated with evergreens such as conifers, as well as flowering shrubs, forest perennials, sedges and mosses. If you carefully place these alongside rocks and water, you can create the mini landscapes and picturesque tableaus so reminiscent of Japan. Add to this a teahouse-style garden building, Japanese bridge and lanterns, and the result can look very authentic.

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1. Bare fences and house walls create a hemmed-in feel
2. Lack of planting means there's no interest
3. You can see the garden all at once so there are no surprises


Cloud Pruning
Train trees and shrubs to create clouds of soft foliage floating in the garden with this ancient Japanese technique.

Micro Landscapes
Large, well-worn rocks, mosses and sedges create the micro landscapes and picturesque tableaus reminiscent of Japan.

A garden building which takes its inspiration from the traditional Japanese teahouse adds an authentic feel and forms a focal point for the garden.

Dry Lake
This feature, complete with small islands, is created from gravel that is raked to imitate the flowing movement of water.

Single-rail Bridge
The narrowest point of the dry lake is crossed by a Japanese single-rail bridge, traditionally painted red, but just as commonly left a natural wood colour.

Bamboo Screening
Bamboo or reed screening help mask modern fences and adds an 'instant' Japanese flavour to the boundaries.

Water Feature
A bamboo deer scarer gives a regular hollow knocking sound that complements the serenity of the garden.

Cherry Trees
Flowering cherry trees create a stunning cherry blossom display in springtime, whilst adding a serene and soothing feel to the space.

Stone Lanterns
There are many styles of Japanese lantern, each designed for a different purpose and effect in the garden.