japanese garden


Bamboo in Japanese gardens

Some principles of organizing a Japanese garden originate from Zen-Buddhism, the main features of which such as simplicity, naturalism, understatement and refinement are embodied in a Japanese garden. I would like to highlight two important concepts. The first one is "koko" which means "aged", the beauty of it. The second one is "shizen": naturality, the lack of artificiality or complicated decorations. Bamboo fits all these qualities best. No wonder this plant symbolizes firmness, dignity, courage and elegance in Japanese culture.

bamboo fence

Bamboo is unique due to its properties. Its very strong, beautiful and ages rapidly in the open air, giving a noble patina of time to a garden.

Bamboo fencing, Koraku-en Park, Japan

The Japanese use bamboo a lot, so its rare to see a garden without this plant. It grows quickly and looks great. Bamboo can be found as in large gardens of Japan, as well as in small ones, like tsubo. It goes well with stones and gravel. There are groves of bamboo and small groups of it.

Although bamboo cant survive our winter and is suitable only for the gardens in the south, different things made from bamboo are widely used. They will perfectly suit your garden and give it a Japanese look.

A low fence of bamboo, Japan

Bamboo fencing, Koraku-en Park, Japan

First, pay attention to various fences which can be either real or symbolic. Real walls and fences, which are usually made of wood and stones, perform a protective function. The walls can be decorated with bamboo or even completely made of it if it corresponds to your vision of the garden. However, the trunks should be thick enough. Besides, reed mats can also be a nice decoration for covering a fence or a wall. However, these mats eventually get dark, even black, so it would be useful to impregnate them with varnish for boats or something else.

Reed mats on the fence

A fence made of a tree fern could be a great solution as it is initially darker and stronger and doesnt need special treatment.

Fence of the tree-fern

What concerns symbolic fences, its desirable to make them of bamboo. Thickness of the trunks should correspond to the size of the garden, the size of the fence and its function. A small fence made of thick bamboo trunks looks ridiculous in a small garden, while thin and rare stems can be lost and dont look impressive on a bigger area. Being symbolic, these fences arent solid. Two or three bamboo stems are tied together and put at regular intervals. The number of bamboo sticks can be the same or different in each segment of the fence. You can also see the fences where the sticks are put one by one at equal distance.

A low fence of bamboo

Bamboo became extremely popular in the late Middle Ages (17th -19th centuries), when tea gardens appeared in Japan. Those gardens (rodji) were specially organized areas in front of tyasitsu, tea house. That place was a so-called intermediate zone between the outer world and the world of a tea ceremony. Bamboo fences became the symbol of the division. The fences could be of different height (but not too tall) and different density. They can be solid, and almost transparent.

Bamboo fence in the tea garden

Live bamboo stalks planted in a row were often intertwined in the fence.

Live bamboo woven into the fence, Japan

The inner fences of bamboo dont usually fulfill any protective function, they are just a hedge symbolizing the transition. Its also necessary to tie the bamboo in a proper way to give the fence a Japanese look.

Tying of bamboo

Gates can be also made of bamboo although its better to combine it with wood: the frame is wooden while the laths are bamboo.

A bamboo fence can also highlight a particular view or element in your garden. If you put it behind a tsukubai bowl or next to a Japanese lantern, it will make them look more attractive. The corner of the garden with a nice plant, such as a Japanese maple, will look more interesting if its decorated with bamboo. You can also use bamboo screens to cover some untidy parts of your garden. There is a box of compost hidden behind a bamboo fence in the picture on the right. This way you can hide working tools, barn and more.

A fence hides a box with compost

Besides all the information given above, bamboo is widely used in other garden decorations.

Bamboo mat, Japan

Benches of bamboo, Japan

So, it can be a material for making a musical device which will fill your garden with quiet sounds. Even if there is a weak wind, a light knock of bamboo sticks will calm you down. You can put these devices on the roof of a small summer-house, at the entrance or in the tree. Dont forget to write hieroglyphs which mean bamboo on the tongue of the bamboo bell.

Bamboo sound device

A part of a bamboo stem is suitable for a water drain. Of course, because of our climate, we should not put it on the house, but it will look nice in a summer-house or under a small canopy.

Spillway on the roof is the half of bamboo

Bamboo is often used for decorating summer-houses and pavilions: lattices and banisters as well as the walls of a pavilion, which can be sheathed with bamboo panels, or the floor covered with bamboo fabric.

Of course, its not possible to make a tsukubai or sisi-odosi without bamboo.

Bamboo mat on the floor of the teahouse

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Authors of the photo: Elena Glubokovskih, Alexandra Basova, Gleb Uspensky, Natalia Revich, Irina Andrianova.


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