Like art nouveau landscapes, traditional Japanese landscape and small gardens have a sense of privacy and enclosure. Unfortunately, this style has been largely misinterpreted in American residential plantings.
The stylish points most representative of a Japanese garden are the miniaturization of the larger natural landscape, the borrowing of surrounding views and foliage to expand the private space. And the prominence given to individual features, such as rocks, miniature trees, bridges, and garden structures.
Japanese gardens vary considerably, from the moss garden that feature hundreds of different types of mosses under a broken canopy of Japanese maples, to the famous Zen Royan-ji temple that has only a few carefully placed rocks within a raked field of coarse, gravelly sand, which is surrounded by a richly aged, tiled wall.
Garden in the Japanese style carefully employ texture and color, juxtapose geometric and free forms, and contrast enclosure with expansion. The overall character of such a garden speaks of simplicity and order, but doesn’t sacrifice the intricacies of a natural landscape. This is not an easy style to use well; when handled carelessly, it can resemble a miniature golf course rather than a sensitive reflection of nature. To create a garden in keeping with Japanese concepts, it is a good idea to make a concerted study of the subject. There are a number of excellent books devoted entirely to Japanese landscaping and several wonderful public Japanese gardens in various parts of the country.