A Japanese garden should be kept simple and natural. The basic elements used are stone, plants, and water. Plants are used sparingly and carefully chosen: you don't see lush flower borders or succulents in a Japanese-style landscape.
While it's true that you own the landscape and can do anything you want with the space, there are simple guidelines to follow for making the garden more attractive and enjoyable to you and anyone who experiences it. The following rules for what not to do are commonsense principles as you get involved in the design process.
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Don't Paint Wood Features
Refrain from painting wooden benches, fences, gates, arbors, or other garden structures. Instead, stain them as needed or allow them to weather naturally. An exception would be a brightly colored bridge that serves as a focal point. These are often painted a red-orange and have a lacquer finish.
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Don't Use Too Many Japanese Accessories
You love Buddha figures, pagodas, bridges, and lanterns and can't wait to use these accents in your garden. Remember, less is more. Yes, you can have too many Buddhas and pagodas, and it can make your yard look like a showcase for your collection.
Along the same lines, don't use everything that seems remotely Asian in your Japanese garden.
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Don't Use Colored Stones
White gravel—or any other color—does not look natural in a Japanese garden. The same goes for glass or other non-natural materials.Continue to 5 of 11 below.
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Don't Use Plastic Basins
Waterfalls are a key element in Japanese gardens, and many are made of plastic. That's fine; remember to conceal them with soil, rocks, and plants.Continue to 9 of 11 below.
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Don't Arrange in Even Numbers
Release yourself from that symmetrical, even-number-is-the-best part of your personality, and understand those garden elements look more random and aesthetically pleasing if arranged in odd numbers groupings. This rule pretty much applies to most types of modern design, both interior, and exterior.
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Don't Use Cute Accessories
We all have different concepts of what "cute" is, but plastic or plaster figures, folksy signs, or other outdoor design elements will most likely be out of place. What not to use in a Japanese garden:
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Don't Prune Pines to Look Like Christmas Trees
Sure, pine trees are one of the recommended plants for a Japanese garden. But that doesn't mean that every pine tree needs to be shaped like a Christmas tree. Pines in Japanese landscaping are favored for their irregular form.