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 grove in Arashiyama, Kyoto

Bamboo grove in Arashiyama, Kyoto

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

Hasedera Temple, Kamakura

Hasedera Temple, Kamakura

Kamigamo Nishimura Villa, Kyoto

Kamigamo Nishimura Villa, Kyoto

The Japanese use bamboo a lot, so itТs 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 canТt 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.

First of all, these are, of course, various hedges, which, according to their purpose, can be real or symbolic. Real walls and hedges serve as a separating or protective function. They are usually made of wood or stone. However, if the aesthetic principles of the garden require it, an existing wall can be decorated with bamboo, or even completely made of it. True, the thickness of the trunks should be appropriate.

Fence on one of the streets of Kamakura

Fence on one of the streets of Kamakura

Fence on one of the streets of Kamakura

Sometimes you can see walls that are a real work of art. They are often made from twigs or reeds, with addition of bamboo. But making such a fence by yourself is quite difficult.

Wall with bamboo elements in the temple garden, Ebina

Wall with bamboo elements in the temple garden, Ebina

In addition to bamboo, 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. Although they will not give one hundred percent guarantee. But on the other hand, darkened reeds look so Japanese! :)

Reed mats on the fence

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 doesnТt need special treatment.

Fence of the tree-fern

Fence of the tree-fern

What concerns symbolic fences, itТs 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 donТt look impressive on a bigger area. Being symbolic, these fences arenТt 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.

Bamboo fence, Nara

Bamboo fence, Nara

Bamboo fence, Nara

You can also see the fences where the sticks are put one by one at equal distance.

Shisen-do Temple Garden, Kyoto

Shisen-do Temple Garden, Kyoto

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Happo-en Garden, Tokyo

Happo-en Garden, Tokyo

And somewhere the fence is a complex interweaving of bamboo halves.

Temple Garden, Koyasan

Temple Garden, Koyasan

Bamboo became extremely popular in the late Middle Ages (17th -19th centuries), when tea gardens were popular in Japan. Those gardens (rodji) were specially organized areas in front of tyasitsu, tea house. That place was a so-called СintermediateТ 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.

Jiko-in Temple garden, Yamatokoriyama

Jiko-in Temple garden, Yamatokoriyama

Living plants planted in a row were often intertwined in the fence.

Fence in a private garden, Nara

Fence in a private garden, Nara

Gates can be also made of bamboo although itТs 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 it’s decorated with bamboo. You can also use bamboo screens to cover some untidy parts of your garden. This way you can hide working tools, barn and more. Wells and drains are especially often covered with bamboo.

Hokoku-ji temple garden, Kamakura

Hokoku-ji temple garden, Kamakura

Isui-en Garden, Nara

Isui-en Garden, Nara

Hasedera Temple, Kamakura

Hasedera Temple, Kamakura

The Japanese make gutters from halves of bamboo. 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.

Shisen-do Temple Garden, Kyoto

Shisen-do Temple Garden, Kyoto

Shisen-do Temple Garden, Kyoto

Saiho-ji Temple Garden, Kyoto

Saiho-ji Temple Garden, Kyoto

And in the Jiko-in garden, bamboo was part of the drainage system.

Jiko-in Temple Garden, Yamatokoriyama

Jiko-in Temple Garden, Yamatokoriyama

You can fence something with bamboo.

Arashiyama District, Kyoto

Arashiyama District, Kyoto

But, perhaps, most often, restrictive structures are made of it. This can be done in our gardens too. If you want to close the passage for others in any place, it is enough to put up such a fence.

Okochi Sanso villa, Kyoto

Okochi Sanso villa, Kyoto

Street of Kyoto

Street of Kyoto

Ginkaku-ji Temple Garden, Kyoto

Ginkaku-ji Temple Garden, Kyoto

Murin-an Garden, Kyoto

Murin-an Garden, Kyoto

Happo-en Garden, Tokyo

Happo-en Garden, Tokyo

Just like us, the Japanese make plant protection for the winter. Usually peonies protect from snow breaks.

Yushi-en Garden, Matsue

Yushi-en Garden, Matsue

Saiho-ji Temple Garden, Kyoto

Saiho-ji Temple Garden, Kyoto

And, of course, they protect pines. True, for pines the construction is more complicate, and professionals should make it. We were lucky to see this action, and even to take part. Such protection is called yukitsuri, it protects pine branches from breaks after a snowfall. In the center, next to the trunk, there is a long bamboo stick, and below there is a circle divided into sections (also made of bamboo). Strong ropes are stretched from the crown to the circle, thanks to which the branches receive additional support and do not break under the weight of the snow mass.

Setting up yukitsuri in the temple garden, Ebina

Setting up yukitsuri in the temple garden, Ebina

Yukitsuri in the temple garden, Koyasan

Yukitsuri in the temple garden, Koyasan

And sometimes, only one branch of a pine, the longest and heaviest needs protection. Usually these pines formed in the mon-kaburi style.

Protecting a pine branch above the temple entrance, Koyasan

Protecting a pine branch above the temple entrance, Koyasan

For the New Year, the Japanese make a kadomatsu, which consists of bamboo, branches, flowers, berries. If you have a Japanese garden, this decoration will look very nice in winter.

Kadomatsu at the hotel entrance, Kyoto

Kadomatsu at the hotel entrance, Kyoto

Bamboo is so widely used in Japanese gardens that it is difficult to list everything in one article. Therefore, I only mark the most common cases. For example, bamboo railings. They are very durable and comfortable. Bamboo railings are appropriate both on stairs and on bridges.

Saiho-ji Temple Garden, Kyoto

Saiho-ji Temple Garden, Kyoto

Ginkaku-ji Temple Garden, Kyoto

Ginkaku-ji Temple Garden, Kyoto

Ginkaku-ji Temple Garden, Kyoto

Benches can also be made of bamboo. In this case, you mast take care to ensure that the trunks are smooth and that people sitting on the bench do not tear their clothes. The edges must be covered or sanded.

Hashimoto Kansetsu Villa, Kyoto

Hashimoto Kansetsu Villa, Kyoto

Murin-an Garden, Kyoto

Murin-an Garden, Kyoto

Of the unusual uses of bamboo, I would like to note the covering of the drainpipe on the path and the lamp.

Street of Kyoto

Street of Kyoto

Hasedera Temple Garden, Kamakura

Hasedera Temple Garden, Kamakura

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, itТs not possible to make a tsukubai or sisi-odosi without bamboo.

Bamboo mat on the floor of the teahouse

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