Japanese gardens are a unique look and are easy to implement to your space, big or small. You can choose to add a subtle oriental twist by adding a few key features. Or you can completely re-create the look and feel of a Zen garden oasis.

Often admired for their structure and symbolism. There are many elements to the traditional Japanese garden and these are implemented to highlight the importance of appreciating and understanding nature. So, what better way to start appreciating our gardens more?

Plant style

The plants you choose can be a subtle nod towards the overall theme of your garden, as well as creating the structure for your space.

The Japanese maple is popular in all types of gardens. It’s a popular choice in smaller spaces, providing stunning summer, and autumn colour. With many varieties in all shapes and sizes, there’s sure to be one to fit the bill for your garden.

acer japanese maple

Acer palmatum ‘Trompenburg’ has intriguing colour-changing foliage that is purple in spring, becoming greener in the summer, but come autumn it is fiery orange-red.


Rhododendrons can be a welcome addition to your Japanese-style garden with plenty of varieties to choose from. Rhododendron occidentale has fragrant funnel-shaped flowers that will grace your garden in spring in a partially shaded and sheltered spot.  Alternatively, azaleas are intrinsic in Japanese garden design, the bushy evergreens deliver all-year-round colour and interest, providing structure and shape to the space.


Japanese privet or box-leaved holly may be what you need to provide some structure in your styled garden. These can be pruned into the ‘cloud tree’ shape using the Japanese method of ‘Niwaki’ which means ‘garden tree’. These marvellously manicured trees may not be symmetrical, but they show balance, which is just as beautiful.

For the iconic spring blossom, cherry trees are a must-have. If you have a small space, Prunus ‘Kojo-no-mai’ is compact and slow growing, perfect for a pot and also provide colour all year round with white to pink blushing blossom and great foliage colour for autumn.


Traditional Japanese gardens are designed with the senses in mind. So make your garden a sensational spot by incorporating wonderful water into your design.

In many Asian cultures, a garden is a place for meditative reflection. You want to create an area that helps you feel relaxed when you enter the garden.

red-archway japanese garden

The importance of sound

The trickling sound of water, or the calm stillness of a reflection pool, will help evoke feelings of relaxation and serenity.

Ponds are a great way of incorporating water into your design. Use this opportunity to introduce new plants and even some fish such as koi carp.

If you have a large enough pond, a small bridge over your pond will be a great ornamental feature. As bridges are a common feature in many Japanese-style gardens.


For smaller spaces, a water feature or reflection pool will look great. And if you use Aquatic plants such as water lilies, they’ll provide additional wow to your feature.


Pathways and bridges

Pathways are used in Japanese gardens to help the body and soul to wander.

If you have a larger space, you can create a ‘Zen’ rock garden. Use large rocks or stones, surrounded by fine gravel or sand, raked into a pattern designed to imitate the ripples of water flowing.

red-archway japanese garden


Most Japanese-style gardens feature ornate pathways and bridges. These allow you to meander to unseen areas of the garden. Build a simple zig-zag path to a hidden corner of your garden. This will help you incorporate this element, and you can use simple wooden slats or paving stones to add to the effect.

Even if you don’t have a water feature, you can add a little bridge into your paving design for decorative purposes.

Or create a pathway that imitates water by using gravel, sand or slate chippings. Shape the pathway to imitate the flow of stream water.

Statues and pavilions

Authentic Japanese gardens will include a pagoda. These are pavilions that were traditionally used as outdoor temples.

If you have sufficient space, you could place such a pavilion nestled in a corner of your garden.

For something on a smaller scale, a simple stone statue of a pagoda pillar is an excellent nod to the tradition.

red-archway japanese garden

For those final touches, add lanterns and, sculptures that match your design. These additions may seem small but these details will complement the entire look.

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