Japanese Garden Design – Hill and Pond Style

The hill and pond style of Japanese gardens is quite popular. Also known as the “pond and island” style, it’s basic premise to mimic nature in miniature.

This was one of the first garden designs used in Japan. These gardens actually originated in China after 200 B.C. during the Han Dynasty. As they were only constructed for Emperors, rulers and rich nobles, you can see that these gardens could be quite immense in order to cover the vast amount of land on which they were built. However, this garden style can be scaled down fairly easily to fit a typical suburban backyard with a few modifications.

The chief features of the hill and pond Japanese garden are artificial lakes and ponds, which represent the open sea, and “islands” through the placement of rocks in the pond. Hills were formed around the area with rocks and/or dirt. A waterfall is also an element often found in these types of gardens.

Plants used are mostly evergreens with some deciduous ones planted for contrast. Moss growing on the rock “islands” add an element of “nature in miniature” to the scene. Subtle greens and muted colors is what is favored for this landscape, so stay away from vibrant colored flowers, huge flowering or colorful trees, or brightly painted garden ornaments. What you are aiming for is a quiet, calming retreat in nature, a place to go to contemplate life and meditate, if you so wish.

Streams can also be included along with, or instead of, the pond. A small garden bridge adds a nice touch as well. As you can see, this is a fairly simple design to create for your own yard. However, don’t use this style if you only have a tiny courtyard to work with.

When creating this Japanese landscape design, you must make sure that the trees, plants, lanterns, bridges, stepping-stones and any other features used are kept in exact proportion to the landscape. In other words, you don’t place an overly large stone bench near a small “hill”.

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