Creating your own Japanese garden

James Rippon James Rippon
Koiteich in Marburg, Kirchner Garten & Teich GmbH Kirchner Garten & Teich GmbH Modern garden
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There is something unequivocally calming about a Japanese garden. For centuries the Japanese have been the masters of creating peaceful and relaxing spaces, and it is only in the last 100 years or so that the west have adopted their ways to help bring calm to our own busy lives. So what exactly makes a Japanese garden? To create a real Japanese Zen garden in its true form means adhering to strict rules, but you can adopt the elements you most prefer to create your own version of a Japanese relaxation garden. Often a minimal design is evident, with a rock garden, water features trickling softly, or a small fish pond can all feature. No distracting colours, and a carefully planned layout are also key, with bamboo and rock footpaths also often used. To draw inspiration for your own place of Zen, take a look at these Japanese gardens from experts right here on homify.

Japanese Torii

The moon gate with wooden art behind Lush Garden Design Asian style garden
Lush Garden Design

The moon gate with wooden art behind

Lush Garden Design

A Japanese Torii is a traditional gate found at a shrine or Buddhist temple, to mark the entrance to a sacred space. It exists to symbolically mark the transition from the profane to the sacred, and was traditionally  constructed from wood or stone, but is now also made from concrete, copper or even stainless steel. Torii gates can be left unpainted, or painted red and or black. This Torii has been given a western, more modern twist to suit the owners, but still has elements of the traditional design.


One garden element that is ever present in Japanese gardens is the use of water, not only for its visual effects, but also for its ability to help create a sense of calm, and help bring one closer to nature. Water is present in the form of a stream or irregular shaped pond, but if you are unable to utilise these in your garden, water can always be represented in the form of white sand in a dry rock garden. To add an extra touch to your pond, introduce Koi or Goldfish.


Stones are also an important detail in any Japanese garden. In Buddhist symbolism, water and stone are the ying & yang; two opposites that complement and complete each other. The type of rocks used will represent different pieces of the landscape, from heaven to the mountains, and the ocean to the land. They are also used for their calming sound effects underfoot.

Japanese maple

A tranquil combination of traditional rock, slate and Acer Lush Garden Design Asian style garden
Lush Garden Design

A tranquil combination of traditional rock, slate and Acer

Lush Garden Design

The choice of trees and plants is also of utmost importance to creating a place of Zen. Each tree should be carefully chosen. The most common trees found in Japanese gardens are azaleas, camellia, oak, cherry trees, willow trees, pine trees, and as seen here, a red maple tree.


Residence for the Unknown Client, LIJO.RENY.architects LIJO.RENY.architects Modern garden

Residence for the Unknown Client


Bamboo is also another tree commonly used. Bamboo can grow incredibly fast, so be careful to maintain it thoroughly. If growing bamboo isn't for you, then try adding a bamboo element by using it as your fencing material, or in small decorative elements.

Calming water features

The main aim of a Japanese garden is to bring calm and relaxation, and in order to do this, more than one sense must be considered. The simple addition of a water feature, with the soothing sound of trickling water, is sure to bring peace to any garden setting.

For more garden ideas, take a look at our ideabook on readying your garden for spring.

What's one element of a Japanese garden you would love to have for your own? Leave us a comment and let us know below.

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