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Japanese gardens (known as Nihon Teien in Japan) are famous the world over for their peace, beauty and tranquility. They are easily recognizable but require careful planning in order to achieve the look of natural beauty. While some gardens are elaborately created on a grand scale, others are much smaller to fit easily into apartment verandas, walled areas of Japanese tea-house gardens or into any other small space available to house the beauty that is the Japanese garden.

For our purposes we will discuss three distinct types of Japanese gardens: the landscape garden, the rock/stone garden and the tea-house garden.

The landscape garden notoriously includes the following five elements of nature: mountain, river, sea, forest, and field. They are meant to imitate nature as closely as possible. Unlike many of the organized and symmetrical gardens found the world over, the Japanese landscape garden is designed to reflect the exotic beauty that is found in nature. A beautiful array of ponds, small rivers, waterfalls, pebbles, stones, grass, trees, shrubs and a variety of plants make up the landscape garden.

The rock/stone garden is exactly that, a garden of small pebbles or gravel and strategically placed rocks and boulders. While this may not appeal to some, the Japanese delight in their rock gardens. A rock garden is composed almost solely of rocks, pebbles and stones and on occasion, a small amount of greenery strategically added for interest and softness. Gravel is sometimes spread and then raked to give an appearance of the movement of the water in the sea.

The tea-house garden is usually in a small, enclosed area just outside a tea-house or room where the tea ceremony is performed. The purpose of this type of garden is to add peace, tranquility and meditative state of the tea ceremony. The flow of nature is present in the tea-house garden in the form of trees, shrubs and grass and will often include a spring or other water source; however, not all five aspects are required as in the landscape garden.

No matter which type of garden you prefer, the true objective is to feed the spirit and promote tranquility and nature. The flowing and peaceful look is the goal and can be achieved in many ways. When creating your own Japanese garden, especially for a small place, remember the following:

Choose a Style and Stick With It

While this may not be true when you've gained some expertise with the Japanese garden, it is best for beginners to pick a style and stick with it. It is simpler and less confusing to have a clear objective in mind, landscape, rock garden or tea-house. It also makes it easier to scale down for a small area if you are clear about what you want and where you're headed.

Keep It Simple

When working with a small space, remember, simplicity is best. While you may be able to incorporate many elements into a larger garden, limited space makes it necessary to scale down and avoid a cluttered look. The simpler, the better. You can still make your point and incorporate many beautiful aspects without congesting the garden.

Choose a Focal Point

Particularly in the rock garden, you may want to choose a particular focal point such as a particularly beautiful boulder or majestic rock. In the tea-house garden you may prefer a Japanese lantern or spring. In the landscape garden you may choose a particularly majestic tree. Whatever you choose, be aware that the eye will be drawn first to the focal point and choose carefully.

In This Case, Size Counts

A garden for a small space must be kept in perspective. While it is tempting to buy one or two large items, you will want to remember to keep everything to scale and not let any one piece over- dominate. While a focal point is nice, do not let it be too imposing. Remember, the keywords here are flow and unity.

Do Your Homework

Before beginning your Japanese garden, study up on the subject. There are many beautiful, colorful pictures available to feed your imagination and creativity. Better yet, try to locate a Japanese garden in your area and visit for inspiration. The more you know about the varieties of plants, trees, shrubs and grasses available, the easier your job will be when scaling down for your small space.

Set the Mood

Last but not least, set the mood for creating by playing Japanese music, studying Japanese art and adopting the gentle and meditative Japanese attitude. This way, you can truly incorporate peace, joy and a spirit of tranquility into your own small garden.

No matter what style of garden you choose or what elements you incorporate, a Japanese garden will add beauty and peace to your small space. Relax and have fun while creating your work of art and the results cannot be anything less than perfect.