Japanese Garden Design

Where? – An important fact that makes it impossible to say where a Japanese garden may properly be undertaken. Wherever a garden enthusiast who is capable of fulfilling the exactions of Japanese garden design and has a bit of ground that may be set apart and hidden completely from all conflicting sights, a Japanese garden is possible.

Elsewhere, and under other auspices, it ought never to be undertaken. For there is nothing in the average community in the US than can furnish a harmonious setting for such a delicately conceived creation; and no matter with what horticultural skill it may be designed and carried out, it will fail in effectiveness for lack of proper “frame.” Within a Japanese garden one should be, in effect, in Japan – not in an American landscape at all!

The Materials – It is a dominant characteristic of Japanese craftsmen to utilize natural forms, letting fancy play with them and adapt them to the purpose of the moment. Hence it is to be expected that Nature forms will be largely used in the Japanese garden for such structures as design may require. Wood in its natural state, stone, bamboo – these are the building materials, augmented only as may be necessary with dressed timbers and slat work, both open and close-set, such as the design may demand.

Quick to seize upon the suggestion in a gnarled branch or an unusual rock formation like for example landscaping with rocks which may resemble an animal, a bird, or a human being, pleasant and poetic fancy is exercised by the Japanese artist to bring out such resemblance to the highest degree, even to the extent of making it dominate its immediate surroundings, which are then developed as adjuncts to it.

For example, imagine near the top of a splendid towering hard maple tree, there was noted by the garden maker’s keen eye, in an out-thrust branch the unmistakable half-size suggestion of a dainty woman in Japanese dress, her hands folded demurely within her sleeves, her eyes downcast. Not from every angle was this visible, but an approach to the spot from which it could be seen most clearly and in its loveliest aspect had been cunningly planned to bring out the silhouette with startling emphasis at the instant of one’s arrival before a very small shrine erected in honor of this Lady of the Treetops.

Here little tokens were placed on special occasions, and the Lady was taken quite seriously even though playfully; a festival in her honor being celebrated when the foliage and all the surrounding conditions brought out her presence sharply and clearly. Thus she brooded over her bit of the garden, wielding a pleasant influence.

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