Japanese rock gardens use design to symbolise the natural landscape, and they do vary in materials and style. One of the well know styles is the stone garden, sometimes called the raked garden, and indeed these gardens to incorporate rocks as well as raked patterns of stones or pebbles.
Although they have been around for centuries, they have a timeless element about them and fit is well with a range of architecture styles. Equally at home with a contemporary designed building or a traditional style these gardens also use a range plants and garden ornaments.
If you are lucky enough to be visiting Japan, the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum at Takamatsu is worth a visit for inspiration.
The rock garden is called Karesansui or sometime simply Zen garden.There is a guide for arranging the rocks known as the Sakuteiki. This outlines some basic principles including always showing the best face of each stone and always having more horizontal stones than vertical in any group or garden.
What do the stones, and sand represent?
- Stones represent different elements of the landscape, mountains and islands.
- Sand can represent water, oceans and streams.
- Moss represents a forested area.
How do the Elements of Stone Gardens Work?.
Arranged stones are the fundamental element. Larger stones and rocks along with smaller pebbles along with sand which is raked into patterns are the backbone of this style of design.
The raking of the sand not only served as a design element, it was also used as a form of meditation for priests.
The rocks and stones represent the forces of nature. They can also represent religious figures, one large rock and two smaller ones can represent Buddha and two attendants.
Plants are also used, sometimes Bonsai, in other designs mosses and low growing grasses.
Although the formal designs with symbolism related to nature as well religion are found around temples and shrines, it is the design elements that are transferable that are inspiration for many landscapers.
Stone and rock gardens are today combined with plants and statues that allow a Japanese stone garden to blend in with garden designs both large and small.
How to Build Your Own Rock Garden
Most rock gardens are in courtyards or enclosed spaces, a position in a corner can work well, however use you imagination. You could make yours next to a walkway.
- First step is to measure the area and plan what features you wish to include. A visit to your local stone yard may help with ideas.
- You will need to clear the area, level it and then cover it with geo textile to prevent weeds.
- You also need to place a border around the perimeter, generally around 15cms (6 inches) high. This provides a retaining barrier for the small rocks or sand.
- The next step is to spread your sand or rock. You are aiming at around 10cms (4 inches) deep.
- Now its time to place the rocks, you can look a traditional placements or make a pattern symbolic to your own family.
- Any trees or ornaments can also be added.
- Now its time to rake the garden and make patterns in the sand.