Following on from our previous blog that focused on decking supplies and maintenance, we explore how you might use this time at home to restyle your garden.

The traditional Japanese garden is a considered space that evokes serenity and an appreciation of nature. As Japanese culture is inspiring design this year, we consider the plants, timber cladding and other features that could transform your garden.

What are the Features of a Traditional Japanese Garden?

There are two distinct types of a traditional Japanese garden. One is built around the principles of Zen Buddhism and it must be possible to view the entire garden from indoors. The second is the Promenade garden, where new areas and elements are revealed as you walk around the space.

Both options share key features that should always be included. These symbolic items are water, rocks, plants, gravel or sand, a pagoda, stepping stones and bridge. The arrangement of each element is considered and neat, yet the effect should look natural. The scale of each feature will depend on the size of the available space; for example, water may take the form of a small stream, a pond or a small water feature.

A Japanese garden should flow. Sharp angles and symmetrical lines are replaced by curved lines which lead the viewer or visitor around the space.

If you want to design a strictly Japanese garden, it is worth reading about the cultural significance of each element. You may prefer to be inspired by the style without rigidly sticking to traditions.

Which Japanese Plants Grow in British Gardens?

The climate in Japan is not wildly different from the UK, so many species will grow well in both countries. If you are looking for ideas, here are five suggestions:

Japanese Maple – Acer palmatum offers beautiful leaves and colours.

Bamboo – Nandina domestica gives an instant oriental feel. As bamboo is a fast-growing species, it can be advisable to keep this in a planter.

Black Mondo Grass – Ophiopogon planiscapus is a dark, low growing plant that offers a deep contrast to light gravel and greenery.

Cherry Tree – Prunus serrulate delivers a beautiful display of spring blossom, which is a celebrated occasion in Japan.

Satsuki Azalea – Rhododendron indicum is a cultivated plant which produces beautiful flowers.

The style of planting is, however, quite different from our traditional cottage gardens. Rather than borders crammed full with a variety of colour, Japanese gardens are sparse in comparison. Spaces are left around the plants so that each is given prominence. The plants can go directly into the ground, or remain in pots.

Green is the dominant plant colour. There is, therefore, more interest in the texture and shape of different foliage. Greens are complemented by subtle colours, such as pale pink, lilac and white, rather than bold, showy tones.


timber cladding

Timber in Japanese Gardens

A Japanese garden will be devoid of synthetic materials, with natural stones, pebbles, bamboo and timber being used to create structure. These are displayed in their natural form, so you would never find painted timbers or pebbles.

Timbers are used to create ceremonial tea houses, gates, pagodas and frames which focus attention on specific areas of the garden. In modern interpretations, areas of hardwood decking can perfectly compliment planting and gravelled areas. Low benches and bamboo or timber-clad planters also work well in this design style.

Preserving Timbers in the Garden

In Japan, the natural weathering process, along with the growth of lichen or moss is welcomed and encouraged. If you prefer to preserve hardwood decking, timber cladding and other wood features, the recommended options are a natural wood stain or charred timbers.

Yakisugi is the Japanese tradition of charring wood as a means of preservation. The controlled process alters the cell structure. It builds up the timber’s natural resilience to fire, weathering and insect damage.

Exterior Solutions Ltd is a UK specialist in the art of Yakisugi. We have developed our own Shou Sugi Ban® range of charred timbers, which are widely used for architectural cladding. We are delighted to introduce a new range of garden planters.

In addition to domestic settings, a Japanese inspired garden could make the ideal outdoor space for conference centres, wedding venues, in public gardens and office courtyards. If you would like us to supply your project with hardwood decking, timber cladding or yakisugi planters, contact Exterior Solutions Ltd on 01494 711800 to discuss your requirements or request a brochure.