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.
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
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
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.
. . . . . 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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