Japanese style garden ideas

posted in: Gardening | 18

Here are some Japanese style garden ideas that you can have in your own garden.

Do you want to know what my one big regret is with my back garden? Autumn flowers excite me but over the years its not half as much as foliage plants.  Twenty years ago Japanese gardens were quite popular here in the UK and  regularly featured in the Chelsea show gardens. But by the time I started to design ours over 15 years ago that trend was waning in popularity. As a result I also wanted to do something different. As I look back many a time I ask myself why I didn’t  just plant it with a Japanese style  from the very beginning. It had been one of the original designs I had to choose from.

Foliage leaves
Japanese style garden ideas – September 2011 – autum foliage


The closest thing I have to any type of Japanese style is along the little strip of garden that separates our property from the neighbours.   It’s nothing like the famous Portland Japanese Garden. Such beauty in that place…sigh.


The Rock
standing stone
August 2011

We all find our inspiration in many different ways. For this part of the garden it was finding an enormous rock embedded in the lawn in 2007.  We kept wondering why one part of the grass always seemed to die off so we decided to dig that part up. I was convinced it was just a small piece of rock.  Well we dug and dug…and dug. It took one whole day to dig it out. Finally!

My youngest was convinced we had a gravestone in the lawn!

It then took two of us to roll it from the lawn to the side garden. We had to be careful not to break the patio pavers every time we rolled it over.  What were we going to do with this enormous piece of rock – sell it on ebay?<giggle> Can you imagine the postage?   And so began our little Japanese theme. Well that is after we extended the other flowerbed as we had wrecked that part of the lawn.


Spring 2008
leavesnbloom Japanese gardenThe Pieris died during 2010 winter and the Fatsia struggles now with our winters. It has never been this size since 2008.


I already had the wind chimes so all we needed were a  few rolls of bamboo edging, cobbles, river pebbles and white gravel. Though they are not so white now! Ideally it should have been sand so that I could rake some shapes into it. But the neighbourhood cats would have used it as an outdoor litter tray. No thank you!


I bought a couple of packets of bamboo canes from the garden centre and made two pieces of bamboo trellis.  I laid out the design on the floor and cut the pieces and then wired them together with florists wire.  Then I covered the wire with raffia knotted in  a Japanese style. Though damp twine would have been better.  (How to tie Japanese knots, make bamboo fences and trellis).


Japanese style garden ideas

Japanese style garden ideas
July 2011

I planted it with

  • Acer palmatum var. dissectum ‘Garnet’
  • Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ – Japanese Forest Grass
  • a small standard cherry tree (lost label)
  • Cyrtomium falcatum – Japanese holly fern
  •  Phyllostachys aurea – Golden bamboo
  • Rhodendron (lost label)
  • Azalea (lost label)
  • 1 x Conifer (lost label)
  • Fatsia japonica ( it never gets big due to our recent harsh winters)
  • Athyrium niponicum var Pictum – Japanese painted lady fern
  • I also used to have a beautiful 3 foot tall Nandina domestica ‘Firepower’ until it succumbed to our first harsh winter a few years ago.
Astrantia white flowers
August 2011 – the Astrantia selfseeded from the garden next door


Some other plants grow in the same strip though  they’re not strictly Japanese style plants. But I grow them for colour and texture like ferns,  AstilbeAstrantia, Chaenomeles japonica (as a climber), Dicentra, Pulmonaria, Philadelpus corona aurea and Potentilla fruticosa ‘Pink Beauty’.

Blank canvas of a garden in 2001
My blank canvas Autumn 2001

I would love a blank canvas again to do something on a much larger scale in the back garden. But that’s never going to happen. It would be too painful to get it back to that blank canvas on my heartstrings never mind the bank account!

So I’ll just have to be content and enjoy the little bit that I have especially at this time of year. I can just imagine what it would be like on a grand scale. At least that’s free and effortless.

Autumn colours of foliage in the Japanese garden
Japanese style garden ideas – large rocks and gravel


Do you ever wish you could start your garden from scratch again?  What changes would you make big or small?

Follow Rosie Nixon:

Photography Tutor and Gardener

Rosie is a garden photographer, writer and nature lover. She enjoys soaking up nature and is easily distracted from doing the weeding by anything that flutters, flies, buzzes, creeps or crawls! She enjoys sharing the beauty of creation through her photography. Rosie has been featured on TV on BBC2's The Beechgrove Garden and she uses the outdoors as her natural light studio. Her work can be seen at one of Scotland's only photography galleries - Close Gallery, 4b Howe Street, Edinburgh. She also writes and shares her nature images on www.irelandbirdphotography.com

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18 Responses

  1. Ellie

    I think your garden must be stunning, my garden however is not. We haven't got much room to plant anything. My daughter Karen is very keen on plants and bonsai so she has sort of taken over my decking with her plants.
    I'd love to have lots of flowers and trees though. I'll just have to dream lol.

  2. Gatsbys Gardens

    Yes, Yes, Yes! But in a way I begin my garden again each year on a smaller scale. I am not above pulling things out that don't work for me giving them away or even throwing them away if no one wants them.

    We can all start over again in small sections and then eventually it is the way we want it, for a while!


  3. FlowerLady

    Wow, I love your lovely, serene garden. You've done a wonderful job with your space, creating a haven of beauty.

    You have inspired me to keep on working in my own gardens.


  4. Gerry Snape

    Well I think you could start a trend there…at least I'm going to do it ….So thankyou for this lovely idea. We have a stone which I think of more as a standing stone…we found it in the back field when we were starting to make the garden and have put it in to say…we were here…even when we are gone!
    Any way your garden is beautiful!

  5. Lona

    Your garden looks so wonderful and neat. THe edging is so nice. Makes me cringe at mine. LOL! I love the reds of the Acer. So beautiful. Gorgeous Pictures.

  6. Carolyn ♥

    Such an interesting assignment… I'm curious to know more. Love that rock and it sits so gloriously in its new spot.

  7. HolleyGarden

    How beautiful. Love, love, love the stone. And yes, every once in a while I want to rip it all out and start over. And I do move things around a bit, so it's almost like a mini do-over every year!

  8. Wife, Mother, Gardener

    As our current situation is not our permanent home (we live/garden an investment rental house we own), I have always know that I would someday need to move on. So the design of the gardens beds has been more important than the plantings, though I have enjoyed them plenty! I actually really look forward to seeing the next phase of our garden in a few years, striped of perennial fluff and filled with green ground cover. Then the design with be appreciated all the more.

    Beautiful garden! I hope you get to spend a few evenings enjoying the sunset with all of those warm hues.

  9. Curbstone Valley Farm

    Our first garden trended toward more of a Japanese theme. It was very shady, and number of plants popular in Japanese gardens seemed to do very well, including the maples, Camellias, Pieris, and alike. I still miss that garden. All year I could depend on foliage for interest, and had to, as not much would bloom in so much shade. I think your garden is lovely, and I love the fall colors of the leaves.

    I do often wish I could start from a blank canvas here, although it would never be appropriate. It can be easier to realize a vision though when not having to work with existing garden structure. Instead, here, I accept it's a challenge, and as the garden evolves, as your garden evolves, I'm sure we'll both come closer to our vision of our ideal.

  10. Andrea

    Hi Rosie, haven't heard from you in a little while. Just like Greggo, i can't open your comment window in Blotanical, so came direct instead, just was able to put the picks. I thought you will be saying your alternative is RAW but instead that, haha! Your new garden look is amazing, very beautiful. But those autumn leaves hanging with pegs are a bit naughty, but definitely lovely. How are you?

  11. Alistair

    Rosie, your garden is sensational. Yes I remember when the Japanese thing was all the rage, we just made our own adaptation. I would like to start all over again, I would have more meandering paths, have less grass making room for more and more plants. Don't have the energy though.

  12. Melanie

    Your title reminded me of a tongue twister that's why I clicked on it:) I love the way you interpreted your assignment. I think your Japanese garden is awesome. I love that you have lost the tag to many of the plants. Many of my plants are tagless too.

  13. kanak7

    Looking at your stunning pictures I wish I had more space to create areas like yours. Absolutely beautiful!!

  14. catmint

    I guess I like the fact that a Japanese section did evolve despite your not having planned it originally. If you had designed a Japanese foliage garden you may have put in a little section for flowers by now. If I was starting again I might have a veggie garden … but I never would have the energy to make such radical changes again. Love the quirky and punny Jpegs.