Principles of Oriental Landscaping

Understatement is a general characteristic of Asia, and particularly of Japan.  Understatement is associated with quietness, contemplation, wa, and the Tao.  An oriental garden is not as "loud" or as "showy" as a European (western) garden.  Parenthetically, loud behavior, whether it is in language, dress, or architectural design, makes the Japanese feel uncomfortable.  Whereas we might want to overwhelm our neighbors with variety and color, the Oriental would want to underwhelm them.  A garden should envelope the person and its beauty should slowly reveal itself.  This means that an oriental landscape will use more evergreens, only selected perennials, and almost no annuals.

Man-Nature Relationship
In the Orient, whether the medium is painting, or photography, or landscaping, man is always small and insignificant with respect to nature.  This perspective must be maintained throughout; nature is big and strong, man is small and frail (but he can endure and survive--gamman).  With attention to detail, the oriental landscape reproduces nature in its idealized form.  To re-create nature, water and boulders are indispensable.  Water represents life.  Flowing, moving water parallels both the environment and the "chi" (Chinese for the energy in every soul and upon which their system of medicine is based).  Boulders are also a necessity, and they should be "planted" correctly.  This supposedly adds vigor and strength to the landscape.

The objective of the oriental landscape is to allow the individual to enter a blissful, meditative mindset.  Losing the boundary between self and other is a goal of both religion and garden.  If the garden feels as if it has come indoors, or if the home feels as if it is in nature, then the dividing line between self and other has become blurred and the objective has been met.

Bending the Will
Just as man can bend the will of a pine bough and cause it to grow in a certain manner, so too can culture bend the will of the individual.  That is nature's way and it must be accepted, not rejected. Almost all vegetation is pruned; this is good for growth and adds strength to the plant.  Some azaleas are 125 years old, and still blooming.

There should be a balance in everything associated with the garden.  This means that attention is given to: type (deciduous or evergreen), height (tall or short), color, texture (soft or coarse), blooming time, and the amount of space that is open or closed.  This balance creates a sense of motion which is intuitively understood and which parallels the flow of energy in the garden.

Simplicity and Repetition
Keep it simple. Less is more. An oriental garden should never be busy.  Open space is as important as planted space; each contributes to the overall effect.  An individual "steps into" this type of garden as it is felt as much as viewed.  Serenity is key.

Boundary and Scale
Most oriental gardens are scaled down, sort of like the HO version of model railroading.  Most have a fence or some such boundary that clearly demarcates the garden from the "rest of the world".  Sometime, it might even be a psychological barrier; I refer to the sidewalk as a Japanese fence.

My Garden
 . . . . . is not really an oriental garden because it has:  1)  too many annuals and in general too much color and  2)  no fence, which would enclose the space and make it more private.  I wanted to capitalize on the open acreage and I envisioned the garden as a magnet to bring the common property together.  The immediate pond area is the portion which most characterizes an oriental garden.  Dwarf shrubs accomdate the miniaturization.

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