Japanese Garden: Zen Garden

Everything about Japanese garden art

Japanese gardens are oases of peace and relaxation, often arouse mystical associations and seem mysterious. Creating a real Japanese Zen garden requires a lot of experience and a library of knowledge. We limit ourselves here to the key data, but can still give tips for the initial design and basic design of a Japanese garden on German soil.

We give an overview of the history of the very old Japanese gardens, the different forms of laying and the correct, our climate appropriate planting. A small East Asian empire can also arise on your property - in the plant it does not depend on the size, but on the sophistication and imagination of their creator.

Japanese garden

Contents - Japanese Garden

  • Japanese Garden - History and Origin
  • Classic Japanese garden types
  • Creating Japanese Garden - Preparations
  • Base Shopping List
  • Plants for the Japanese garden
  • Japanese garden according to the Yin-Yang principle
  • Create Japanese garden
  • Garden decor in the Japanese garden
  • Japanese Garden: care and other design options

Japanese Garden - History and Origin

The origin of today's Japanese gardens, which were created according to certain rules of Zen, Taoism and the Ying and Yang principle, can be traced back to China of the year zero. After Japan came the philosophical horticulture with a Koreans, the horticulturist Shikomaro became famous around 612 on the islands. The famous gardens of Kyoto, Japan's historic capital, are about 1000 years old and have not been fundamentally altered since then.

Japanese garden in Bielefeld

Japanese garden in Bielefeld

Its installation and care took over poets, which speaks for the strong linkage of poetry, culture and horticulture. From the Edo dynasty, around 1615, developed a lively and highly specialized horticultural craftsmanship with a sheer unimaginable love of order, design and detail.

Japanese gardens have enjoyed increasing popularity in public and non-public parks of German cities since the second half of the 20th century. So there are about 38 publicly accessible Japanese gardens of different styles and types in this country alone.

Classic Japanese garden types

Kare-san-sui style

kare-san-sui, Japanese for "dry landscape", refers to one of the simplest, yet most artistic forms of Japanese horticulture. Visually, such gardens are very puristic: towering, partly overgrown rocks are surrounded by gravel beds. Into these gravel beds flowing, organic movements are raked, which should symbolize streaming water. The raking of the gravel beds and their viewing is understood by Zen monks as meditation.

Tsukiyama style

tsukiyama, Japanese for "small hill", is called a garden style, which is to imitate an artificial landscape symbolically. Most "German-Japanese" gardens follow this style. In the garden small cairns and artificial hills are piled up, a pond symbolizes the sea. Again, flowing forms are important.

Creating Japanese Garden - Preparations

First of all, you should think about how much of your garden you want to "Japaneseize": sometimes even a small corner is enough to set a beautiful, exotic accent.

Whether you want to redesign your entire garden or only a part, for our guidance, however, is irrelevant: We show you only the principles, the plants and the technical side of the garden design: The final design is up to you and still oriented clear rules.

In the basic concept, a Japanese garden consists of gravel beds and selected plants, which must be arranged according to each other. Should he tsukiyama-Style be selected, in addition, a pond is added - you will find out more in our guide pond with pond liner and pond.

Base Shopping List

The gravel beds in Japanese gardens are quite deep with a layer thickness of about 20 centimeters.


  • not too fine gravel for gravel beds of 20 cm layer thickness
  • thick weed fleece as gravel pad
  • suitable substrates for soil improvement
  • spade
  • shovel
  • wheelbarrow
  • rough rake for the gravel

By the way, you should not use too fine gravel for the graveling: this could be perceived by cats from the neighborhood as an invitation to do their "business" in your gravel bed.

Plants for the Japanese garden

Plants from original Japanese gardens usually grow here as well; at least in the northern regions of the Japanese island kingdom, the climatic conditions are quite similar to ours. Many of our exotic shrubs and plants are quite expensive. For home use, the following, rather low-priced plants have also proven to us:

  • rhododendrons
  • azaleas
  • snowball
  • Japanese maple
  • conifer species

Of course, many more plants are suitable for the plant of a Japanese garden; Creativity is needed. Classic dominate green and red tones, but also white leaves create beautiful contrasts. In general, rhododendrons should be used rather sparingly, in addition, the bushes should always be cut short.

Japanese maple

Japanese maple



Japanese garden according to the Yin-Yang principle

Yin-Yang symbol

The Chinese principle of yin and yang, also represented in Japanese philosophy, is based on the juxtaposition of opposites, but also emphasizes commonalities of things and their mutual condition.

Japanese gardens can be created according to this principle. So you can use the following yin-yang principles when designing the garden:

  • Light - shadow
  • Light - dark
  • Dry - damp
  • High Low
  • Square round
  • Level Hill

Create Japanese garden


For the installation of a Japanese garden, you first need careful planning - as we have often mentioned. However, once the planning is done, the yin and yang principles are taken into account, but you can go fresh to work.

First, you should dig out the gravel beds: In a large garden, it may be worthwhile to rent a small excavator. Otherwise, you are well served with spades, shovels and possibly a few volunteers. Lift the soil about 20 cm deep and then insert the weed fleece. Now you can cover the gravel - pay attention to an even distribution and a flush conclusion with the lawn edge.

The conifers and shrubs are planted, groomed and cared for according to their individual requirements of planting time and location. For the installation of a pond, which will be guaranteed to be an eye-catcher in your garden, we recommend our instructions in the field of water in the garden.

Also decorative elements should not be missing: About typical Japanese garden decoration we inform you in the next section.

garden Figure

bronze figure

Garden decor in the Japanese garden

Japanese gardens, despite their formal rigor, offer decoration options. Whether lanterns, figures or other decorative elements, in a Japanese garden you can let your imagination run wild.

A traditional decoration is the sparing but visible distribution of boulders in the Japanese garden. Half or a quarter buried stone to make the landscape varied and harmonious design according to the Yin-Yang principle.

However boulders are not easy to get or even to transport; the several 100 kilo chunks bring the family combination to the pain threshold. A nice and practical alternative would be the rain barrel in boulder optics, which at the same time can take over the water supply and quite imitates a heavy, massive boulder.

Japanese Garden: care and other design options

garden tools

Japanese gardens need more care than any other garden: their precise harmony only unfolds when the gravel paths are neatly raked, shrubs and trees are precisely cut and the lawn is in a good and mown condition.

So it is advisable, twice a year at the plant-specific times to make a back or cutting the bushes and trees. Refining and cultivation measures strengthen the well-kept overall picture, even moderate fertilization can contribute to good growth and a beautiful sight.

Your imagination when expanding the garden are limited only by the elementary Zen rules: Even with native plants, a Japanese garden can be beautiful. Try it - more relaxation in your own garden should be hard to find.

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