Healthy & Beautiful Gardens – Creating an Asian garden

Hello fellow gardeners! This week I thought I might address a very specific “style” of garden, typically referred to as a “Japanese” garden, but since Chinese also have similar styles in their gardens I am just using the term “Asian” here.

For those of you who know me, you know I’m big on using native and drought tolerant plants. Many of the plants in your typical Asian garden are not exactly drought tolerant, but I believe you can utilize similar plants that do well in our area while still keeping the appearance of an Asian garden.

The basic “elements” in an Asian garden are – plants, water, stones, wood and water. The plants are not typically grown for their flowers specifically, but those can be an added bonus.

Stepping stone pathways through gravel look great in flat areas. Also, larger rocks added in certain “key” spots can be representative of mountains.

Low edging or fencing should be of bamboo for an authentic look. The water element can be added with a small pond, possibly with a “Deer Scarer” (a wooden device that water from your pond flows into with a rock beneath. When full, it falls down and strikes the rock which makes a noise that scares deer!) added for authenticity.

Existing wood fencing can be left as is, or better yet, covered with bamboo fencing. Another great and classic wood element is the Japanese bridge – usually used for ornamentation purposes only. This bridge doesn’t have to cross a standing body of water; it can cross a “dry creek” of pebbles and rocks.

Japanese lanterns made of stone are mandatory and available at many garden supply stores or online. Placement is very important in this style of garden as is each item mentioned above.

There are many plants that typify this style of garden. Most people immediately think of the Japanese Maple. However, this plant is not as well-suited to our area as others, as it tends to require a lot of shade from a larger tree.

For trees I would recommend the Mugo Pine, Japanese Black Pine, the Maidenhair Tree or Ginkgo Biloba, ‘Little Gem’ Magnolia and of course the Cherry tree.

Maples are classic, of course, but again, keep in mind their requirements of water, and some shade for the smaller Japanese ones. If you already have a nice sized pine tree, a Japanese Maple could do well under its protective branches.

Shrubbery is a great addition to this kind of garden. Any type of Nandina – a species of flowering shrub – will work great. You can find them from 2’ tall to 6’ tall. I like the “Firepower,” “Gulfstream” and “Sienna Sunrise” varieties of the plant.

Most “basic,” easy to find shrubs work well in our climate such as Indian Hawthorne, Junipers, Photinias, Mahonia, Japanese Barberry (great dark plum colored leaves).

The “Western Sword Fern” is one fern I would recommend if you have to have a fern. It does require mostly shady areas though. Check varieties and sizes first and plan accordingly.

For smaller plants and ground cover, Liriope is great, especially in shaded to semi-shaded spots. Also, many clumping grasses look fantastic in the Asian garden such as Mondo grass (black looks stunning!) Festuca glauca or “Elija Blue,” Evergreen Miscanthus and Japanese “Blood Grass.”

It should be noted that Blood Grass will spread quickly and should be contained if that is not desired. But the grass is very striking in landscapes!

Creeping juniper, Dymondia, Dichondra, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi and one of my favorites in this type of garden, Ajuga reptans “Carpet bugle”, all make great and reliable ground covers.

Additional touches to the garden might be some oriental sounding wind chimes hung from a tree bough, or patio cover.

Other great additions would be items of Asian statuary such as Buddha or Kwan Yen. A “Moon Gate” is another classic for Asian gardens. The lower gate is cut down like a bowl shape, and there is a rounded upper arch over the gate.

Use gravel for paths, ground cover and stepping stones. Boulders strategically placed are also essential.

Well, that’s all the room I have for this week folks. As always, please feel free to contact me with questions. I am available for consultations and designs. Sayonara!

Linda McDonald

Landscape Designer

www.uniquelandscapes.net

(951) 764-4762

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