For centuries in Japan the garden has represented an important part of the house, on the one hand it has a strong meaning of status symbol: the great temples and the houses of the nobles once could not fail to overlook a balanced garden; on the other hand, the Japanese garden, in addition to decorative functions, also has evocative and symbolic functions: man tries to get closer to nature and its harmony through the preparation and contemplation of the garden.
The garden is designed trying to obtain some particular results; first of all, the space is designed by making sure to broaden the observer's horizon, so that even a small garden gives the impression of being a forest or a large clearing.
So each element must recreate the harmony and balance of nature, water, trees and rocks are positioned in a harmonious way, avoiding to give the impression of an artificial place.
To design the garden you follow some simple principles:
- Asymmetry: everything that is symmetrical is artificial, created by man; therefore the shapes of a Japanese garden are sinuous and pleasant.
- Disparity: to avoid symmetry, the elements inserted in the garden are placed in an odd number; generally the figure to which we tend is the triangle.
- Contrast: the encounter between contrasting elements is fundamental in the Japanese garden; tall trees near low shrubs, rocks near the water, a small reed bed near the path.
- Nature: nature must be the fundamental principle and source of inspiration for anyone who is preparing to design a Japanese garden; in a small space we try to bring back the sensations evoked by the wide natural horizons.
The first aim to strive for is to obtain a space that seems large and unlimited, where the gaze can run towards the horizon, and which recalls the immense natural spaces; for this reason, trees of medium size are usually planted in small groups to imitate groves; paths and paths are also prepared, in order to direct the observer's gaze towards the highlights of the garden.
To remember nature, it is also important to place water in the garden, whether it is a bubbling stream or a small pond, while avoiding rigid-shaped, overly artificial-looking fountains or pools.
The space can also be enriched by the presence of a small bridge, and by the classic stone lanterns. The stone is also present as an important decorative element, in the form of large rocks, which symbolize the mountain ranges, and gravel, often placed instead of water.
The Zen garden
It is not yet clear whether the term Zen garden is original Japanese, or introduced by Westerners; in fact with Zen garden we mean a particular symbolic space.
This garden consists mainly of rocks and gravel; the rocks symbolically represent trees and mountains, while the gravel represents water, whose flow is represented by long lines, to be practiced on the gravel with a rake in long parallel lines. Often inside the Zen garden there is also a small cavity to fill with water, or patches of grass or moss.
This type of garden can also be very small in size, and it also pleasantly approaches a Japanese garden or a western garden, where it can occupy a small corner in dim light. Also in this case, the garden must convey a sense of peace and harmony, the materials used in it also symbolize stillness and immortality; the preparation and observation of this type of garden therefore predisposes to meditation. Every day, if desired, it is possible to change the arrangement and path of the signs on the sand, this occupation predisposes to introspection and meditation on man and nature.
Zen Gardens: In Europe
The style of Japanese gardens has always fascinated us Westerners; the harmony they emanate penetrates the observer, who gets lost in ecstasy observing the small ponds and the sinuous figures traced in the gravel; for some years these gardens have also been created in the West, trying to follow the millennial guidelines coming from Japan.
The reasons for the success of Japanese gardens are certainly to be found in the charm aroused by everything exotic and in the peace evoked by such scenarios.Another fundamental reason why many gardeners try to prepare these gardens also in Europe derives from the fact that more and more often our homes can enjoy a small green corner; the Japanese garden, and also the Zen garden, adopt such expedients that even a small area of land can be sufficient to contain a harmonious and welcoming garden.