This Month’s Color in the Garden: The Role of Green in Japanese Garden Design

Photo Credit: Library of Congress. San Francisco Japanese Tea Garden Golden Gate Park Highsmith, Carol M., 1946-, photographer
When I think of a predominately green garden, Japanese Garden style comes to mind. The color green has been a basic element in Japanese garden design over the centuries and has also been an element found in both formal and informal gardens throughout horticultural history. Greenery provides architecture in the landscape in the form of hedges, trees, shrubs, grass and moss. The color green is a neutral color, one that can be used with any other color without changing the desired effect for a space. It is the perfect combination of the basic primary colors yellow (warm, energizing) and blue (cool, calming) creating a perfect balance. Conifers which are commonly used in Japanese Garden design provide soothing shades of green and grow in a variety of structural forms for year-round interest.
Photo Credit: Library of Congress. San Francisco Japanese Tea Garden Golden Gate Park Highsmith, Carol M., 1946-, photographer
In Japanese Garden design, evergreens are used for their simplicity, ability to mimic the natural landscape, and to provide structure all year round. Typical plant species used in Japanese Gardens are juniper, Hinoki Cypress, pine, bamboo, maple, cherry, azalea, camellia, and iris. Moss is another element that has especially played a major role in Japanese garden design, and is regarded as a symbol of harmony, age, and tradition. For at least 1,000 years, Zen monks have written about the important function of moss in their writings about temple landscapes. It has been used for centuries among paving stones, in rock gardens and as a joining factor to unite the individual elements in the garden together as one. In many of the photographs depicting Japanese Gardens, moss is evident as a contributing factor, as in between bonsai trees and in pathways.

Photo Credit: Library of Congress. Bamboo Garden and Water feature at San Francisco Japanese Tea Garden Golden Gate Park Highsmith, Carol M., 1946-, photographer


Along with evergreens and moss, water is a basic element in Japanese Garden design. Water and stone are the considered “ying-yang”, meaning they create a balance with one other. Water contributes to the expression of nature and symbolizes calm, wonder, renewal and continuity in the hereafter. In the above photograph, water and stone are used together to create a soothing effect. The plantings surrounding the water feature project a green reflection into the water, amplifying the effect of calm, peacefulness and tranquility.

Photo Credit: Library of Congress. Japanese garden at the House on the Rock near Spring Green in Sauk County, Wisconsin., Highsmith, Carol M., 1946-, photographer

In this Japanese Garden located in Wisconsin, the designer has used the same four elements of Japanese Garden design. They are stone, water, plants, and ornaments. While water creates a feeling of calm, stone anchors the garden and symbolizes duration and presence of the forces of the nature. Their function is to replicate a natural looking landscape, showing hills, streams and ponds. The type of stone used is of great importance. Generally, fine pebbles represent water and larger rocks and boulders represent elevation changes, such as mountains and valleys. The addition of evergreens, deciduous trees, shrubs, and moss, along with structural elements complete the design. Very often in Japanese Gardens you will notice lanterns, statues, pathways and bridges to create an inviting atmosphere and lead the visitor through the gardens in a relaxing manner.

Photo Credit: Library of Congress. Henry Edwards Huntington house, San Marino, California.Johnston, Frances Benjamin, 1864-1952, photographer

The use of green is widespread and has been a tradition in garden design throughout the centuries. It continues to be an important element of landscape design today. Japanese Garden design is a timeless tradition that will continue to use green as one of the its most essential elements, to create a perfect balance of nature and harmony.

Have you heard about my new book, Landscape Design Combinations? It is a continuation of my first book, with a greater emphasis on design, including numerous numbered and labeled photographs of successful landscape plans. Step by step, the book teaches the elements of landscape design, how to choose and place various types of plants to serve a function, and how to design for the seasons. Also included are illustrations on how to build a natural stone patio or walkway, simple container combinations and the development of different garden styles throughout the centuries. Landscape Design Combinations was written to provide you with the tools needed, along with sample designs as guides, to help you to create a garden of your own. Click on the link below for a preview with more details about the book. If you have read either A Guide to Northeastern Gardening or Landscape Design Combinations and found them to be useful, please consider leaving a brief review. Reviews help a book get noticed, and I would really appreciate your help! I hope to inspire you!


As Always…Happy Gardening! 

Author: [email protected] Guide to Northeastern Gardening, © Copyright 2017. All rights reserved