The Green Thumb Almanac

YOUR ONLINE GARDENING INFORMATION CENTER

Oriental Style Gardens

An appreciation of nature is essential to both Japanese and Chinese garden design.  Each seeks to interpret the natural landscape in miniature and both convey a sense of calm and serenity.  Man's place in the garden is clearly defined with spaces organized by function and views carefully controlled by design.  While Japanese gardens were heavily influenced by China, each style is distinct in it's look and feel.
 

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  • Chinese & Japanese Gardens
  • Stone & Water in the Oriental Garden
  • Structures in the Oriental Garden
  • Japanese Lanterns, Pagodas & Buddhas

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Chinese Gardens

Chinese gardens were places of tranquility and scholarly pursuit.  Here the Chinese elite pursued the study of calligraphy, poetry, art and philosophy.  Key features include a tranquil water feature, unusual rocks, rock gardens and plants with symbolic meanings:  the pine (longevity), bamboo (strength and flexibility) and the plum (loyality).

Japanese Gardens

Like Chinese gardens, Japanese gardens are designed to depict a natural landscape in miniature.  Japanese gardens vary in appearance depending on the function of the garden.  These can include the tea garden, Zen garden or strolling garden.  Japanese gardens also contain water, symbolic plants, stones and carefully designed views.

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Stone & Water in the Oriental Garden

The most important elements in oriental gardens are stone and water.  Stone can be thought of as the skeleton or foundation of the garden.  Water in the garden helps offset the  weight of stone and provides melody, movement and open reflective spaces.

The shape, size and placement of rocks is extremely important.  Great care is taken to achieve asymmetric balance.  Stone work can also be found in paths, steps and bridges.

Water in the Oriental Garden

Tsukubai (water basin)
Shishi Odoshi (deer scare)
Modern fountain.
Waterfall
Koi pond.  The Koi fish symbolize good luck, abundance and perseverance in adversity.

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Structures in the Oriental Garden

Chinese gardens are designed as a series of spaces, or rooms.  They are often enclosed by walls and connected by gates, walkways or pavilions.  Views are designed to be revealed slowly as one walks through the garden.  Here are some examples of structures in Chinese gardens:

Chinese pavilion
Chinese bridge, Summer Palace, Beijing, China
Chinese moon gate, Missouri Botanical Garden
Chinese garden wall.
Japanese gardens are divided into five different styles. They include the 'Hill and Pond' style, the 'Dry Landscape' style, the 'Tea Garden' style, the 'Stroll' style and the 'Courtyard' style.  The structures within each of these types of gardens serve a particular purpose.  As with Chinese gardens, views are carefully planned.
Japanese tea house Kyoto, Japan.
Japanese Zig-Zag Bridge, Missouri Botanical Garden
Japanese garden gate.
Japanese garden fence.

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Japanese Lanterns, Pagodas, Buddhas

Other elements in Japanese gardens are stone lanterns and pagodas.  These come in different styles depending on where they are used in the garden.  Take care to choose the appropriate style for your garden location.
Yukimi-gata lantern.  (snow-viewing lantern.)
Ikekomi-gata lantern.  (buried lantern)
Oki-gata lantern.  (small, set lantern)
Tachi-gata lantern.  (pedestal lantern)
Yukimi-gata lantern.  (snow-viewing lantern)
Eleven story  tower pagoda.
Stone tower.
Buddha statue.

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Plants in the Oriental Garden

Plants in oriental gardens are chosen not only for their beauty but for their symbolism as well.  Often they are shaped into forms to represent clouds or islands.  Unlike western gardens with their abundant use of colorful flowers, oriental gardens are usually very green.  Foliage is the primary design element with flowers serving a secondary role.  The following are a few common plants found in oriental gardens.
Japanese Maple
Bamboo
Japanese Peony
Moss

Pine Pinus spp.

Lotus
Japanese Iris
Liriope
Weeping Cherry
Nandina
Hosta spp.
Japanese painted fern