Gardens at home are the perfect excuse to enjoy a little peace. Who doesn’t need a place, however small, that invites you to forget everything? If anyone knows how to create places that invite peace and quiet, it’s Japan. And no, it is not necessary to have a large plot of land.
Because taking care of plants, sitting down to read quietly in an outdoor setting or on a beautiful terrace, or simply enjoying the harmonious setting offered by an indoor green space is beneficial to our health. “Right from the start this outdoor space allows you to relax and exchange with nature: seeing the flowers, looking after them… gives you a dynamic that forces you to look after something. To let yourself be abducted by this nature, to let your mind fly away from the information we receive these days, from work… It’s a much-needed outlet. And now being locked up, having something that occupies you, psychologically, brings extra peace.
A garden for every space
Any natural idea is welcome these days, and depending on the space and materials available, inspiration can be sought in one or another type of Japanese garden. Because there are four main styles in Japan.
The first and most spectacular is the walking garden, the one that palaces and large properties in Japan boast about. Its appearance includes a careful nature of trees, trimmed hedges, moss and ferns that surround a pond to which a bridge is added. Paths and stones are also necessary. This is the perfect reproduction of the harmony that can also reach our gardens in a smaller form. “It plays at creating a world in small spaces through scale,” explains Gómez. After all, the key is “to create a micro-world”, he adds. Therefore, a good solution is to think about the ritualism of this garden, which is to represent the sea and the land, and to give a new distribution to that water source by creating a new harmony. Surrounding it with pots, designing a small bridge or path around it or creating a pattern with stones of different sizes can lead to creating a completely new space more harmonious and pleasant.
The second style is the so-called ‘tea garden’, perhaps the most popular and easiest to recreate. As its name suggests, its symbolism is related to the ritual of the tea ceremony. Therefore, a must is to include a straight path with tiles or earth that communicates the house with the area reserved for such occasion, which can be created with tatamis or low chairs. Completing this space with kakemonos (pictures hung on the wall) and bonsai or with “low bushes that are already a little grown or add bamboo can be the easiest way to take care of it” details Bastardas. However, less is more because wanting to reproduce the Japanese essence means that “you must always look for austerity, avoid excess flowers”.
This area with “low elements to sit around a table offers a great moment of leisure. Also, if the nights are not too cold or you create indoors, adding some paper lanterns will give the perfect touch for a quiet dinner with your partner”.
Inside the house you can bet on the so-called room garden, a distribution of plants designed for visual observation from a fixed point. “A nice wallpaper can complement a sand garden very well or give us a green background to a work space at home” points out Bernat.
Also in interior areas it is valid to include the fourth type, the most “curative” of all: the contemplation or Zen garden. Designed to facilitate meditation, in this type of space the green has no place, except for small mosses or bonsai. Only raked rock and gravel (or sand) is needed. With a high symbolism, the sand is the sea, which must be “combed” with a rake to achieve the undulating effect of the water surface, and the stones are the land. Beautiful and simple, “combing” the sand is a practice that helps reduce anxiety and stress. These gardens exist “to achieve a state of mind linked to Zen culture, this branch of Buddhism. This space of visual silence of a game between empty and full, rock and sand, gives a very important peace” agrees Bernat, who recommends that to create a Zen garden one must “choose a calm space. A corner of the house where there is silence. This must always be limited, 30×10 for example, so even if you have a garden you must find a corner.
Whatever style is chosen, as Gómez points out: “The Japanese garden is the example of how with little, but a correct disposition, it says a lot”. Placement is the key, Gertrude Jekyl has already said that with a fig tree and a rose bush you already have a garden”. Therefore, far from thinking that you need a wide range of plants and decorative objects, the fundamental thing is to play with what you already have to “transmit balance to the owner” and obtain a haven of peace.
“It doesn’t always have to be synonymous with symmetry,” adds the landscaper. What’s more, in Japanese gardens you should never leave an even number of stones. The contrast of spaces filled with voids and the contrast of elements also helps to create harmony. And since there is no certain science to accept, “you have to feel that the result leaves you satisfied” and the best way is “by trial and error” points out Gómez. It’s time to try.