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Japanese Garden Design Ideas

Japanese garden design offers some great ideas to gardeners.  

With a bit of imagination we can incorporate aspects and approaches that enhance our gardens without turning them Japanese.  


Stone lantern

A small stone lantern provides a focal point in a garden, balcony or courtyard, without dominating the space. Illuminate them with tea light candles rather than electricity to maintain the serenity they embody. You can buy a reproduction or splash out on an imported original.

Kenrokeun, Kanazawa, Japan. Photo - Linda Ross 

Stone pathway

Irregular shapes of solid stone work best in both stone pathways and bridges. Avoid straight lines and plot an interesting slow journey through the garden. Ensure the pavers are stable by placing them on a bed of paving sand. Surround the stone pieces with gravel, or with low groundcover plantings such as mondo.

Photo - Linda Ross



Bonsai has a uniquely timeless quality. You can buy one ready-made, or create your own mini-masterpiece. Traditionally bonsai is practiced on small-leafed plants such as Japanese maple, conifer, and Chinese elms. You could try azaleas for a colourful alternative.

Japanese Maple bonsai. Photo - Linda Ross


Raked gravel

The most copied feature of the Japanese garden is raked gravel. Done well and kept weed-free you can create your own Zen landscape scene. This idea works well in small courtyards or smaller garden rooms. Consider the angle of the light and the shadow patterns you can create.


Rakes Gravel. Photo - Gardens of the World



Take a leaf from Japanese design philosophy by ensuring the views from inside the house are just as good as those outside. Frame the views with screens or blinds so that you see just what you want to see – the neighbours’ lovely trees, for instance, but not the edge of their roof guttering.


Photo - Robin Powell



Illuminate your garden at night to change the views from both inside and outside. Good night lighting brings into focus aspects of the garden that go unnoticed under the indiscriminate light of day. Even this simple timber lamp, a great DIY project, adds an allure to the outdoor dining area or front path. 

Lamp in the Kenrokuen gardens. Photo - Linda Ross


Text: Linda Ross

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Author: Linda Ross