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Japanese Garden Landscaping: 33 Ways to a Perfect Balance

You may have always admired the simplicity of a Japanese Garden landscape design, and wondered how such clean lines and sparse vegetation exudes such elegance and complexity to the visitor of such a space. Japanese landscaping focuses on the gardeners relationship with the design, as well as what personal relationship each visitor has with the garden itself. It’s supposed to bring a sense of harmony and balance to you as you enjoy your time within it.

Rock, plants, water, and even structural designs are all part of Japanese garden ideas for landscaping and are easy to incorporate into your own gardens for a touch of the Orient.

1. Quiet Reflections

Reflecting ponds are popular landscaping choices to provide both depth and a place for quiet solitude and reflection. The sound and scent of water also attracts wildlife, which provides a balance to the harmony Japanese inspired gardens are supposed to influence.

2. Still Waters

Reflecting pools are a popular addition to many garden landscape designs due to how they showcase the surrounding landscape. Pools are also an excellent place to raise decorative Koi for an additional garden interest.

3. Fairyland

Japanese gardens are also popular for their bonsai, or art of growing and creating miniature trees and other vegetation. These look great amongst statuary and other plants of different textures and height.

4. Misty Mornings

Sleek waterfalls bring tranquility to your evenings and early mornings with a rising mist that casts your garden in an entirely new light. Enjoy your landscape at any time of the day with the differing reflections and sound your waterfalls bring to your space.

5. All in the Detail

Statuary that mimics popular traditional architectural structures are also popular within Japanese garden design. Their simple textures provide an added interest, as well as a strong contrast against the greenery of the various plants they are found within.

6. Lots of Lawn

Although you may picture greenery and rockscape with a traditional japanese style garden, well manicured lawns broken by well placed decorative topiary and detail is still part of the overall design plan. This rambling rock bordered stream is a perfect way to break up the landscape and provide added interest.

7. Artistic Greenery

The art of evergreen shaping is a detail that should be added to your garden even if your landscaping isn’t completely influenced by bonsai styled vegetation. The simple styling and artistry of this creative technique is a focal point that will have your guests admiring it through any season.

8. Color Choices

Choose a color or two that highlights within your garden design and flows well with the varied blooming flowers you have through the seasonal changes. Red is a traditional choice as it celebrates strength and passion, and stands out well within traditional landscaping.

9. Boardwalk

Create a meandering path of a boardwalk through your gardens and over your waterscape to provide a way to enjoy the entirety of your design. This pond also incorporates miniature water plant garden beds t0 help keep vegetation from growing out of control and becoming too invasive.

10. Creative Water Features

Incorporating Bamboo into simple water features is a popular way to add the calming trickle of water into your landscape and help draw in helpful birds and insects to your garden. The use of an oversized planter is an artistic way to add a personal touch to your yard.

11. Blooming Elegance

Varied colors of blooms through the season provide the perfect contrast against the green backdrop of this garden. Trees of various heights also provide depth and all year interest due to the elegance the curves and shapes of bare branches provide through the colder months.

12. A Touch of Zen

The art of Zen influences inner peace and harmony. The use of simple designs helps a person achieve this and can often be found incorporated into gardening. A Zen rock garden can be recreated as many times as you want, and provides a place for meditation and reflection.

13. Contrasting Simplicity

Racked white sand provides a simple, beautiful contrast against the vegetative greenery. Representative of the flow of water, sand can be used in a variety of ways through this style of landscape design.

14. Picture Perfect

You don’t have to be outdoors to take advantage of the beauty you have created. Gardens should be enjoyed as much as possible and from every area of your living situation. Open doorways, picture windows, and french doors are all ways to provide unencumbered views of the peace a garden can bring.

15. Brick Paveways

Japanese inspired gardens don’t have to be all rock, sand, or green ground cover. Brick pavers can provide the consistency and shaping so much of the art encompasses. For example, it helps border and highlight the smaller japanese inspired garden beds found upon this property and allow you to enjoy each separately from one another.

16. Arching Elegance

Even if you do not have a water feature that can be spanned by a graceful walking bridge, consider the adaption of one near your water’s edge, or even over a dry riverbed. Bridges provide a way to breakup the landscaping and provide an aesthetic you won’t be sorry to have added.

17. Architectural Wonders

Japanese gardens often use architectural design within their gardenscapes. Traditional temple designs serve as a place to honor their ancestors and provide respect and beauty to their landscape designs.

18. Gentle Waters

Creating a garden around the existing flow of water is a way to incorporate nature into your design as a main focal point. Since harmony and balance is such an important aspect of this style of gardening, instead of reshaping the landscape to fit your design, use it to influence your design.

19. Overhead Design

The draping branches of overhanging mature trees provide shaping and shadows that only add further interest to your already detailed gardenscape. Spring blooms, colorful fall foliage, and the graceful falling of leaves is part of the holistic approach of this type of gardening.

20. Water-full Blooms

Blooming water plants brings life to areas otherwise devoid of colors. These types of plants are best planted in containers within the water to keep them from getting too out of control as they have a tendency to overwhelm the reflective water surface over time.

21. Stone Gardening

Use stone as your foundation to create intricate, and detailed designs within your garden. Often, it mimics water where it is difficult to add the real thing, and designs formed within it provide a sense of flow. Pea gravel is the perfect choice for this type of landscaping in order to shape it easily with a rake or other garden tools.

22. Unity

Simplicity can also be achieved through the use of common colors and textures. Although similar shapes, heights, and textures appear to work together to form a whole in this garden- in actuality, subtle hues and movement are created through the manipulation of placement and design to turn plain into something altogether even more beautiful.

23. Modern Touches

Japanese landscaping often exudes a sense of age due to the time and effort that goes into the special placement and shaping of the many details that create this style of gardening. Very little speaks of the modern within this traditional design, but the style is inviting to the personal touches you may want to add.

24. Finding Balance

Since much of this traditional design speaks of balance and harmony, both reflected the landscaping as well as in the mind of the visitor, finding a balance of opposites is also often reflected. Colors versus a lack thereof are a feature within this yard, as is living vegetation versus cold stone, which has you making connections between the two to help you see the interrelationship of the garden around you.

25. Quiet Retreat

Areas that allow for a quiet retreat, either in the form of a hut, gazebo, or just an area screened off from the rest of the garden is popular for both individuals to relax in, or entertain away from distractions. Simple lines and colors typically define these types of areas.

26. Focal Points

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Japanese garden designs typically incorporate a few very specific focal points that may change with the seasons. In this yard a spring blooming cherry tree is a colorful reminder of the warmth to come, while the simple water feature in the foreground provides year-round interest.

27. Desert Hybrid

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Despite the fact that many of these garden designs are supported within cooler, wetter climates, if you happen to live in an arid area you can still apply much of the same design features to your own garden. Simple shapes and lines, complimentary color combinations, and noticeable vegetation are all incorporated into this outdoor xeriscape.

28. Gated Entry

Clean, straight lines define many privacy fences and gates to allow for the entry of light, but also apply privacy to your space. Unfinished wood also mimics nature, and provides a contrast against the other hues found within your garden.

29. Unexpected Color

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Although much of this style of landscaping relies on ever=changing colors, shapes, and textures of vegetation found within it, unexpected bursts of color are welcome. This red pops out at you and helps draw your eyes across the yard and upwards towards the trailing vines. It also allows for a touch of color during the dormant months.

30. Places to Meditate

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This open-aired, outdoor deck is the perfect place to sit and enjoy a peaceful meditation, or even as a great place to curl up and read a book. The simple dry river bed and shallow bridge gives it a look of solitude and privacy for a place you can escape to, and keep the world at bay.

31. Deviation

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Don’t be afraid to deviate from a specific plan if you find something you like. Mixing up the styles of your landscaping provides further interest to the overall effect, and since it is your personal creation your personal taste should shine through. This rounded arch is a perfect example of adding in a different style to highlight your creation.

32. Falling Oasis

Clean, straight lines define many privacy fences and gates to allow for the entry of light, but also apply privacy to your space. Unfinished wood also mimics nature, and provides a contrast against the other hues found within your garden.

33. Solitude

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The perfect place for contemplation, this covered sitting area is sparse in design, but rich in landscape interest. These open sided pergola or gazebo like structures aren’t only for visual interest, but can be put to good use in a variety of ways.


If any of these landscape designs have inspired you, it might be time to find a space to create your own Japanese influenced garden design. When planning out peaceful places to sit and contemplate within your garden, consider how these spaces have been used to help declutter, and place your focus on the simple beauty surrounding you. Even if you have a small backyard, a quiet corner is all you need.

I know I really enjoyed getting ideas from the use of plant texture and shape to influence an area I have been wanting to re-landscape. Hopefully you found a few favorites as well, which we’d love to hear about below! And, as always, please share!

About The Author

Danielle McLeod

Danielle McLeod cuts a tragic figure in the High School English classroom teaching literature by day, and moonlighting as a writer and graphic artist by night. Published in a variety of travel magazines, and now a blog, Danielle enjoys coming up with home and garden projects to complete with her two young boys. A native of Michigan, she resides in Southeastern New Mexico with her variety of horses, poultry, and variable mix of rescue dogs (there’s a cat or two in there as well). In her free time she enjoys travel, art, photography, and a good book!