“A garden is the medium to give people a moment to lift them up, giving themselves something they did not have before. It is … a moment to feel a revolution.”
—Hoichi Kurisu, former landscape director of the Portland Japanese Garden,
as quoted in Human Nature by Bruce Taylor Hamilton
A Japanese garden, like any garden, would be incomplete without plants. No matter how minimalistic it is, it needs living, growing things, even if they are just mosses. In a more metaphorical sense, plants function as the “garments” of the garden, changing as the seasons change, underscoring the concept of life in constant flux.
In a Japanese garden, plants are placed in very specific ways in order to create balance. This balance comes from how plants harmonize—or contrast—with each other. Evergreens are juxtaposed with deciduous plants; coarser-textured pines with soft maples; tall bamboos with low-growing mosses.
Similar plants are typically grouped in uneven numbers; plantings of three or five are considered particularly pleasing and in keeping with the Japanese sense of proportion.
Lace-leaf maple showing a highly intricate branching pattern created through controlled pruning and shaping. Japanese maples are a symbol of grace and represent balance