Japanese Gardens: Close to home

“First there was a mountain, then there was no mountain, then there was” Donavan 1967

I have been promising to write a post on Japanese gardens for some time.

It is probably best that I show you the one we created before I show you the magnificent ones in Japan. That way you stand some chance of being impressed with ours!

Some of you might remember our first disastrous attempts to create a little bit of Japan in our back garden.   We were rather more successful with our second Japanese garden.

Let’s face it, whatever we did to the North facing area, at the side of the garage, could only be an improvement.

The side of the garage in June 2011

The side of the garage in June 2011

The ivy had grown all the way over the roof and started to come down the other side, the hebes were old and tatty and the whole area looked a real mess.

In early spring 2013 we cleared the ivy and bought one bamboo plant from a plant sale.

The side of the garage in April 2012

The side of the garage in April 2013

Then in May,  a couple of young gardeners helped us build our Japanese garden, including a typical Scottish dry stone wall.  It might have been better if we had waited until they had actually done the dry stone wall module,  but it did’t work out too bad considering.  At least they had a source of pre-weathered stones that they rescued from a dry stone wall that had collapsed – NO not one they had built earlier!

Japanese garden May 2013

Japanese garden May 2013

We sunk the bamboo and other plants in pots so they won’t grow too big. To the left is a carefully chosen rock that is supposed to represent a mountain.

The mountain

The mountain with fern

By the side of the mountain we planted a fern, a Dryopteris,  in a tiny amount of soil. It seemed to like it.

Japanese garden Sept 2013

Japanese garden Sept 2013

The problem was that the fern did so well that soon the mountain couldn’t even be seen! It didn’t even die back in the winter last year. It looks as if we will need to get a bigger rock or a smaller fern!

March 2014

March 2014

June 2014

June 2014 – the bamboos are growing nicely

These are the plants we have used, all recommended by a lovely Irish gentleman at the garden centre, who had probably never been to Japan, but was a very good salesman.

  • 3 Bamboo Fargesia Rufa (Fountain Bamboo). This is supposed to be one of the hardiest bamboos and have lovely rusty red sheaths. It is not supposed to grow taller than 8 feet and maybe less in a pot. The 6 foot spread is a bit worrying, but unless it breaks out of the pots and likes the rubble surrounding it, that isn’t going to happen.
  • 1 Dryopteris Erythrosora (Japanese Shield Fern). This is supposed to grow to 50cm max – hmmm, I am going out with my tape measure to check on that.
  • 1 Chamaecyparis Obtusa, Nana Gracillis. This is only supposed to grow to 14 inches in 5 years and is already being swamped by the fern! You can just see it peeping out on the left.
  • 1 dwarf spruce (?) whose label has already gone walkabout.

In July 2014, I spent my retirement gift from work on a lovely Japanese lantern that just finished off the area nicely.

Japanese lantern

Japanese lantern

July 2014 - with Japanese lantern in place

July 2014 – with Japanese lantern in place

Now the garden has matured nicely, though it does need a good rake.







We are still considering putting a bamboo screen across the back to hide the ugly garage wall, but in general we are very pleased with how this has turned out.  The moss is growing nicely on the dry stone wall and I even got a little fern to grow in one of the crevasses. This one seems to know its place and is staying small.

Nov 2014

Nov 2014

I hope you’ll agree it is a real improvement on what was there before!


10 thoughts on “Japanese Gardens: Close to home

  1. That certainly is an improvement! The Dryopteris sure looks bigger than 50cm….Dwarf and/or black mondo grass might work in that area as well, being much slower to attempt world domination than the fern

  2. Certainly an improvement – and acquiring that dry stone walling was a real coup, assuming it was a help-yourself situation that is. A roll or two of split bamboo screening would certainly be ideal for hiding the garage wall.

    • I don’t think we got the walling for nothing unfortunately, but it was good to get weathered stones already with lots of moss. Yes I think the bamboo screen may go up next year. Watch this space.

  3. Congratulations on creating a Japanese garden, they offer a different atmosphere in a garden, ideal for unwinding after a busy day. There is a British Japanese Garden Society, which produces a fantastic magazine.
    There is a link to it on my blog.

    • Thanks Brian. I will have a look at your link. We have relatives in Japan so get to see the real thing fairly regularly. They are such peaceful gardens. It is nice to have a little bit of Japan in our garden too.

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