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Plants for Japanese Gardens


Which plants are the best choices for Japanese style gardens? In this article we will discuss plants traditionally used for Japanese gardens. There may be some not mentioned, but since there are so may plants possible, we will limit this article to the ones most used.


There is a certain alure to the feeling of Japanese Gardens that we sometimes want to imulate in our own landscaping. Is it the placement of the plants, water or stone that adds that peaceful, tranquil mood? In this article, I would like to discuss certain plants that can be chosen and their placement that may add that Zen quality we are looking for.

To start with, it is important to review the design principles used by Japanese garden designers over time. Basically, the essence of nature is symbolized in all Japanese garden designs using combinations of plants with natural elements like rock and sand. Changes in the seasons may be represented using plants that have seasonal characteristics. For example, a flowering cherry tree might represent the beginning of spring. Hydrangeas may be planted to give a feeling of summer, and Japanese maples can add color, reminding us that it is fall.

Miniature and Dwarf Conifers for Japanese style gardens


Conifers are an integral part of every Japanese garden that you will visit. This is traditional. The conifers bring a feeling of age and stability to the Japanese garden, and can be trained to resemble old trees in nature that have endured the ravages of weather and lightening over time. Often these trees will be tied down or propped up to give the tree that critical pose needed for the effect desired. The trees below are tied up to 'float' above the water. Eventually the ropes are removed. Another reason for the rope ties is to prevent the branches from breaking under the weight of snow in the winter.

Some good dwarf conifers for Japanese Gardens

Pines are the most used, but Korean Fir, Japanese Cedar and Japanese Hemlock can also be seen.

And of course...flowering cherry

Japanese Forest Grass is native to Japan, and is often found in their gardens. Here are some popular varieties.

Evergreen Azaleas are a dominant component of all Japanese Gardens.

They are clipped to take on the form of rock or boulders. Often in groups of different sizes so as to simulate nature. You will never any 'symmetry' in any Japanese garden, so in planting evergreen azaleas, mix it up in your choice of sizes. Kurume and Satsuki azaleas are the most used, as they can be sheared hard without harm to these kinds of plants.

And of course we cannot leave out the most important, the Japanese Maples.

Native to Japan, these wonderful and decorative trees have graced all of the Japanese Gardens of the world with their colorful, textured leaves and 

sculptural growing habit. From the native Acer palmatum has come a myriad of different forms found and propagated to expand the availability of these trees. Now there are very dwarf forms, forms with colored bark, forms with leaves of almost every color, and forms that are perfect for Bonsai.

We do not grow many of what is out there, but here are a few of our favorites.

To finish this newsletter, I would like to include photos that Verne and Paula Trinoskey took on their tours of Japan from 2008 to 2015. These images illustrate the plants discussed, and their placement. Enjoy.


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