Japanese Garden Design: The Practical Use of Stones and Boulders


Japanese Garden Design: The Practical Use of Stones and Boulders

There is a variety of elements used throughout a Japanese garden, but the three most important and basic ones that you will find in every garden design are: rocks, plants and water features. In this article, we are going to focus on rocks, a very visible and useful Japanese garden element that has many viable and practical applications, along with its aesthetic qualities.

1) Large boulders can block unsightly views. For example, perhaps your water hoses and water connection are near an area of your garden and you don’t want it visible to visitors. A large boulder and complimentary bush would hide the out-of-place items, yet allow you access to use them as needed.

2) Interesting rocks can be placed where plants are hard to grow. Sometimes you will find one particular area in your garden where plants just don’t seem to do well, no matter what you plant or what you do to the soil. Maybe it’s too wet or maybe it’s too clay based. Whatever the problem, a nice rock arrangement might do the trick.

3) Use rocks to enhance a water feature. Place near ponds to make the area more natural looking and visually appealing. Next to a water basin, a smooth, flat stone could be used for kneeling down to the basin. A larger stone could be used as a place to sit for a bit.

4) Stones and boulders can help define a pathway. A rock grouping set along a turn in a path provides visual interest and guides the stroller along the proper course. It also encourages them to slow down and contemplate the arrangement, making the walk more enjoyable.

5) Block off a portion of the garden or path. You can use stones to block off an area which you don’t want people to enter. They form a natural barrier, but be sure to make the arrangement interesting as well.

6) Rocks are a wonderful backdrop for plants. An angular, vertical rock makes a unique backdrop for a plant grouping. Place the rock a bit farther back from the plants, so as to provide depth perception and allow the plants to be the focus (or vice versa).

7) Secure slopes and use as retaining walls. Boulders and good-size stones make excellent, natural materials for use in low retaining walls. On slopes, flat rocks work beautifully as steps.

8) Defining a stream. As in nature, rocks are always found along a streambed. Secure rocks within the banks to help prevent erosion of the earth by the water.

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