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Gardening

6 Plants You Can Use In A Japanese Garden

Use these greens to create your own Japanese Zen garden at home

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Photography: Alfred Mendoza

Japanese gardens are incredibly soothing—the simple, clean lines and plantings are visually calming, and work quite well as landscaping for minimalist modern homes. The plants used need to also be simple in line, easy-to-shape and low-maintenance.


Here are the plants you need to create a meditative garden:

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Chinese holly


This shrub has a bonsai feel because of its tiny, fine, spoon-shaped leaves. The holly can be used in topiaries (carefully shaped and trimmed shrubs). It thrives in full sun.

Horsetail


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This ornamental, spindly plant can be set in groups in a kawa or a cast iron vat, with the soil at the base of the plants, and covered with tiny garden pebbles for texture and contrast.

Yellow iris


Its leaves look like tall grass. This is a simple and clean-looking plant (the one shown here doesn’t have its classic yellow flowers), but it could stand out when grown in clusters. These thrive in partial shade to full sun.

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Foxtail


This plant literally looks like a green, bushy fox’s tail. Plant these in a row (like along a tree line), leaving a bit of space between each plant (it gets bushier as it grows). Thrives in full sun.

Bamboo


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Who isn’t awed by the beauty of the bamboo in Arashiyama Forest? You can have your own Zen bamboo by planting the dwarf bamboo variety in your garden, either clumped as shrubbery, or lined up against a wall or fence. Prefers full sun.

Lotus


If you’re lucky enough to have a water feature in your Japanese garden, then lotus plants are a must. If you don’t have enough space, plant your lotus in planting medium or soil in a kawa (large cast iron vat), then top off with water. Lotus and other water plants love sunlight.

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Part of this article originally appeared in the Green Thumb section of the December 2005 issue of Real Living magazine.

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