What vision do we have when we think of Japan? Well, in truth there will likely be a few images. If we are into anime there will be cartoon characters. The food lovers will doubtless conjure a plate of sushi, and many others will say that a graceful geisha will be on their list. Show all of those folks a picture of a typical Japanese garden and they will all recognise it as being an iconic emblem of the culture of that country.
In fact there is more than one style of traditional garden and they are all striking and mostly low maintenance once constructed. There are the calming and minimalist Zen gardens with carefully-placed rocks adrift in a sea of precisely-raked gravel or sand. The Tea Garden can be small but full not only of plants but also structures, and perhaps the sound of water to set the scene for that important cup of tea. There is an index of plants that you will be able to find in your local garden centre, and a list of addresses for the delivery of those huge boulders as well as bamboo fences.
We are often, in Europe, limited by space and climate so perhaps the most practical garden is the Courtyard Garden. If you are lucky enough to have a larger garden then you can build this courtyard into one corner with views, perhaps, from the sitting room. Create an intimate space with some plants, rocks and moss which will grow happily in a small shady area. Don’t think for a moment that this is necessarily an easy option. You won’t need to mow it every Sunday morning but it will need to be watered frequently.
A small Zen rock garden might be a weekend project but those other gardens will evolve and mature with time. Serene Gardens – creating Japanese design and detail in the Western garden, is a manual of practical advice and ideas to enable you to turn your dream into reality.
Author: Yoko Kawaguchi
Published by: New Holland
Asian book review by Chrissie Walker © 2018