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How to Create a Small-scale Japanese Botanical Garden

Keen to create a small-scale, Japanese-esque botanical garden? Take a look at our latest article here on Made in Japan - we have all the tips, tricks and hints you'll need!

How to Create a Small-scale Japanese Botanical Garden

If you’ve ever visited Japan – or found yourself getting lost in online travel photography – you’ll know that the country’s botanical gardens are just one of its many ‘Bucket List’ sights. Indeed, when it comes to our team members’ own bucket lists here at Made in Japan, a gentle stroll around one of Japan’s gardens is on a par (almost, anyway) with visiting the country’s majestic Mount Fuji.

And, as we restock our online shop with the stunning range of Niwaki gardening tools, we’ve been known to daydream about being magically transported to one of Japan’s botanical gardens. They really are a sight to behold (but more on that later).

Is it right to describe gardening equipment as ‘stunning’? Absolutely. Wait until you feast your eyes on Niwaki’s beautifully made products. For starters, the steel used to craft Japanese gardening equipment is much harder than Western steel, ensuring it stays sharp for years to come and lasts much longer than you’d expect, as well.

Each piece has been designed with specific problems in mind, too. The Hori Hori, for instance, solves multiple gardening problems in one handy, tool. With the Hori Hori in hand, you can cut through roots, turf out weeds, or dig holes to add colour to your garden by way of a rainbow of new plants.

Keen to see some botanical gardens for yourself? Feast your eyes on a trio of them – Kanazawa’s Kenroku-en (pictured below), Koraku-en, in Okayama, and Kairaki-en in Mito – via Machiya Magazine. Created by daimyō (feudal lords) during the Edo period of 1603 to 1868, they began being grouped together in the late 1800s as the ‘Three Great Gardens’ – and it isn’t hard to see why.



The central element to these gardens is a tranquil-looking pond. Beautiful pathways lead up to them and the emphasis is very much on meditation and reflection – both of which are mainstays of the Japanese way of life. Did you know, for example, that Japanese gardens utilise plants that, suggests Midwest Living, ‘look unusual or show special character to suggest a metaphor for meditation’?

Recognised worldwide for its spiritual and mental wellbeing benefits, Japanese meditation has its roots in Zen Buddhism. The religion, states Japan National Tourism Organisation, ‘offers a path to enlightenment through meditation’.

Other key features of botanical gardens are, of course, cherry blossom, and ‘Japanese rock gardens’, which are influenced by Zen spirituality too.

But enough of the Japanese garden stargazing…how do you create a space inspired by these must-visit spots? Here’s how to get started on a small-scale Japanese garden to be proud of…

Gather Inspiration

Pinterest is your friend when you’re at the inspiration-gathering stage of your journey to an at-home botanical garden.

Set up a board – or create one for each season of the year – and begin ‘pinning’ ideas to it. Consider the available space in your garden and the amount of sunlight it gets, before pulling together any ideas or inspiration that take your fancy. Then, you can start honing your ideas by way of a more tangible, bespoke plan.



Put Plans in Place for a Water Feature

One of the essential elements of a Japanese garden is rocks – and water. You can combine the two in a pond, creating a harmonious area in which to sit and relax in the warmer months. Simplicity is key in a Japanese, botanical-esque garden, though, so be careful not to make too much of a statement.

The Ideal Home site offers some handy hints and tips on setting up a water feature in your garden – take a look.

Once you’ve created your water feature, you’ll want to ensure it stays tidy (and tranquil). Keep on top of the weeding, ensuring nothing in or around your water feature is overgrown or unsightly. This Niwaki Weeding Hoe will prove a trusty companion; it’s ideal for slicing through weeds and it’s made from carbon steel with sturdy pine handles.

For those who can provide the right conditions (and have the budget), koi carp are a great choice for your pond – and are synonymous with Japanese gardens. Not only are they absolutely beautiful, but they’re also highly sought-after and can create just the right ambience in your outdoor space.

If you don’t have the room for a water feature, zone off specific areas for Zen-like relaxation time, whether that’s by creating a stunning seating area or a secluded outdoor reading nook.


 Consider Plant Life

As well as adding natural stone and water to your garden, Japanese plants can help you create an enviable outdoor area. Consider, then, Japanese maples (acers), Pieris, Azaleas, bamboo, and magnolias, if you’re looking to bring the joy of a Japanese botanical garden to your UK home.

The Niwaki Hori Hori weeding and planting trowel and the Niwaki Kurumi Secateurs will help you maintain your well-chosen plant-life and keep your Japanese garden in tip top shape. Both, alongside the Niwaki weeding hoe, are bestsellers here at Made in Japan and will help you bring to life the botanical garden you’ve been daydreaming about.

Looking for some more inspiration for your garden? Start with The Art of the Japanese Garden and end with a newfound (or renewed) passion to get outside and get creative.

Until next time…