5 Japanese garden elements


In Japanese garden the water surface is the basis over which there is a whole garden composition, that is why the water is as important and essential part of every Japanese garden, symbolizing the continuous flow of time and life changes. Water element includes the ponds of a quiet surface, streams, waterfalls and springs, but they may be also "dry", when rocks, gravel and sand symbolize flowing or standing water.

The same attention is given to the pond installation, its location and shape, the direction of water flow in the stream as to the stone compositions. Properly selected shape of the water pond with plastic coast line, peninsulas and islands allows to create an impression of greatness in a small area. Similarly streams are being equipped: winding watercourses, irregular shorelines, with rapids and cascades, without a clear beginning, but with a completely clear end, flowing into the pond or a waterfall. Falling water has been always considered to be one of a favourite garden details. Waterfall location is always chosen very carefully - away from home, but not too far, so you could hear the sound of the falling water. Two large rocks on the sides and the forest in the background limited it. Theoretical canons of the garden creation art provide more than ten different waterfall types according to the way of water falling: wide water "curtains" or thin water "strings", with one stream or several branches, even flow or asymmetrically distributed to the edges, one or two falling "stages", which are divided into the main and auxiliary, together forming a cascade... All of them have their names, symbols and are adapted according to the general composition of the garden idea.

Every water pond in the garden has to have islands. It may be a few sticking out of water stones or the islands of different sizes and shapes, with the image and symbolism also provided in the canons: a mountainous island, forest island, rocky island with young trees or without them, cloud or turtle shaped, etc. Almost all the pond compositions have the uninhabited, i.e. not connected by any bridges with the coast, "paradise" islands (horaijima), representing a lonely and untouched by man piece of land in the infinite Ocean, thematic tortoise or crane-shaped islands, etc. The broad scale of their types allows to create a multi-dimensional perspectives of the pond and the impression of the infinity.


In every Japanese garden the plants, no matter how big or decorative they are, always obey the stone layout. Plants bring together separate parts of the garden, soften the lines and create the background. Although plants play a supporting role, they are very important to garden creators. Plant (as well as other element) composition is provided in the traditional canons according to their decorative features, symbolic meaning, relationship with the poetry and painting tradition. A typical Japanese garden plants range consists of evergreens and conifers, blooming trees and shrubs (cherries, plums, apricots, azaleas, rhododendrons, magnolias), local hardwoods (Japanese maples), perennial forest flowers, sedges and mosses. Especially appreciated is mentioned by many poets Japanese pine - a symbol of eternity, from the flowering plants - cherry (Sakura) and plum (Ume), the sign of transience and fragility. Plants help to highlight the flow of time and the endless change of seasons. Trees bloom in the springtime, it lasts only few days, but in Japan - it is a festival (Hanami), celebrated silently sitting under blossoming cherry trees. In autumn, Japanese maple leaves turn red and chrysanthemums bloom, and in the winter the picture of naked twigs is seen in the emptiness of the snow in the background. Japanese gardens usually are not very colourful, and sometimes colours are even non-existent. Abundantly flowering one year or perennial flowers are avoided, as they change quickly and with its diversity distract and interfere with concentration. In our garden bloom the plants from our forests: violets, hare cabbage. Anemones, queen mayflower, lupine, saxifrage, yellow irises, orchids, blueberries, common strawberries, cranberries, heathers, water lilies and others. Traditional Japanese gardens do not include flowerbeds or lawns, the latter is often being replaced with the sand or the moss, that cover the ground, stones, stumps, and tree trunks.

In the summertime a variety of shapes is revealed in the Japanese garden, and the colours of the season - various shades of green. Japanese gardens are revealed mostly in the spring and fall - then all the subtle colours emitted by the plants sparkle. Colour is considered rapidly changing and transitive, it is used to create the impression of the season.


According to the Ancient Japanese mythology, the mountains and stones create the skeleton of the Earth and symbolize permanence and immutability, and the water is its blood, a symbol of flow of live and change. Therefore, stones form also the frame of a Japanese garden. If they are properly arranged, the other part of the garden should automatically arrange itself. The art of the stone arrangement Sute-ishi (japanese sute-ji – „build“ + ishi „stone“) at all times was considered the main element in the gardener's work.

In Japan more natural forms of stones, i.e. with moss or rust, wind and water erosion marks, are considered to be more valuable. Japanese try to look for stones with flat, smooth and attractive surface. Abovementioned stones create the impression of stability and permanence.

We have already used about 12 thousand tons of different sized stones. In total we plan to use about 25 thousand tons.


Must to be part of the garden composition is the garden's architectural and engineering facilities: pathways, bridges, benches, stone lanterns, wells, fences, and gates. All of them are made of natural materials - stone, wood or metal, putting an effort to convey the natural colour, texture of the material, and what is the most valued - time mark, which is indicated by the rusty or mossy stone, darkened from sun wood, metal rust.

Path in Japanese culture symbolize the path through the life, escorting the garden guests through a variety of garden experiences and perceptions. The main function on the paths is the unification of all garden items. Paths like little streams wave through the entire depth of the garden. Japanese garden gives an allusion, that there is no need to hurry, and the most mistaken are those, who think that the way in the tea garden from the garden gate to the tea house can be reached within a few minutes. It's like an allusion to the perception of time.

Many people believe that one of the most distinctive features of the Japanese garden - red painted bridges. They are typical for the Chinese gardens and in Ancient Japanese gardens they exist as a Chinese heritage. In the newly created Japanese gardens the bridges are usually left in their natural colour, not painted. Bridges connecting the coasts and the islands come in several types: smooth, curved or angular, and they can be a variety of materials - stone, wood or earth. Zigzag flat bridge draws the eye in the right direction, but the most popular stone or wooden footbridge may not always be intended to get to the other side, the more important is its symbolic meaning of the flow of life and travelling from one world to another.

Traditional Japanese garden elements indicating key locations are the stone lanterns and wells. The purpose of the lanterns is not only to spread the light, but also designate a certain garden spots. In fact, lanterns in Japanese gardens are more of the decoration, and almost the only one, because all other articles made by human hand have a strict practical purpose.

The simplest water devices are stone water jars on which a bamboo water scoop is often placed on the top.

One stone dish category reminds an ancient coin. They are cylindrical in shape with a square hole for the water. Many of them have inscriptions inside, as on the ancient coins. Inscriptions include wisdom words

Tsukubai – the special dish with bamboo chutes, a symbol of purity and innocence, which is used for purely practical reasons, and its function is more similar to water basins than to luxurious fountain. Tsukuba offers the passing through it person to stop and bend over to wash hands and rinse mouth. Nowadays in Japanese gardens tsukubai use is more the respect for the tradition and expression of aesthetics.

Shishi-odoshi – this is a specific creation of the Japanese garden. The water is pumped to it through a bamboo tube, water flows in a thin stream to the other open end of the bamboo tube which when filled with water at one end moves down and loudly hits the stone. After, the tube rises again and the cycle repeats again. In ancient time Japanese farmers have used this device to scare the wild animals that caused the damage in the fields.

Bamboo garden fences give the impression of lightness and grace. They also have a decorative function and separate elements from each other.

Gates have a special meaning in the Japanese garden. It is also a mystical element, which points out the place of the collision of two worlds and lets the visitor to the garden world.

It is often believed that Japanese gardens are created according to the strict rules of the canon. In fact, the Japanese garden tradition provides many significant rules and types of garden elements, but that's exactly what gives space for improvisation. There are much more rules than one garden composition could cover, that is why the creator does not follow them blindly - on the contrary, he is given the opportunity to freely interpret the canon, thus showing his intelligence and creativity. Centenarian Japanese tradition demonstrates the wisdom, experience and the mystery, the unique relation between man and nature, when the human being is able to improve the nature, by showing its essence, by not pressuring, but relating to its laws. Therefore, Japanese style in the garden art holds a very place.