Building 101: Your Own Japanese Garden

Achieve a meditative landscape with these simple gardening tips


You can achieve a Zen feel for your garden that’s simple, clean, and low-maintenance. Here are a few tips that you may want to consider.

Production by Amillah Rodil. Styling by Gwyn GS Guanzon. Photographed by Alfred Mendoza.

Read the original article ("Turning Japanese") in the December 2005 issue of Real Living Magazine. Download your digital copy of Real Living on the Real Living App now! Log on to for more details. 

Let these tips guide you:

Work with a limited number of plants.

This will help keep the garden simple and unified. The number of plants will depend on how big an area one has, and on one’s taste. A 250sqm garden allows you to play with eight types of plants. If you have a smaller area, use six or less.

Keep it green.

Use groupings of plants with different shades of green. The monochromatic palette relaxes the eyes and maintains harmony in the overall look of the garden.

Vary the textures of the plants.

The different textures bring interest and keep the garden from becoming boring.

Here are some locally available plants that you can use:

Chinese Holly (as seen in photo above) – it has a bonsai feel due to its fine leaves and thrives in full sun. This can be used for topiaries (carefully shaped and trimmed plants).

Horsetail – this ornamental plant can be set in groups in a kawa or cast iron vat, with the soil at the base of the plant covered with stones such as gravel or garden pebbles for contrast. It thrives in partial shade to full sun.

Yellow Iris – its leaves look like tall grass. It’s a simple and clean-looking plant but it can stand out if planted in clusters. Same with the horsetail, it thrives in partial shade to full sun.

Foxtail (as seen in photo above) – it literally looks like a bushy fox’s tail. You may plant it in a row (like a tree line), leaving space between each plant. Same with the Chinese Holly, it thrives in full sun.

For more tips and guides related to your garden, click here.


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