At some time or another, most of us have visited a Chinese Garden. Whether it was at a Botanical Garden or we had the opportunity to visit a larger Chinese Garden in a bigger city, the experience is one we are sure to soon not forget. The calm that overcomes you when you enter a Chinese Garden is remarkable. The feeling of nature and the attention of detail, no matter how small the space, is mesmerizing to even the most talented designer.
History of Chinese Garden Design
Chinese Gardens have been designed since the 700’s BC. Classical Chinese Gardens were enclosed by walls and contained many of the various parts of a garden we see today.
A combination of all or most of these elements were included in all Chinese Gardens: rocks, water, terra cotta fish tanks, courtyards, wells, bridges, zig-zags, winding paths, and pavilions along with trees and flowers. In larger gardens elements such as moon gates (circular openings in walls and screens) and leaky windows were also included.
Chinese Gardens were created to mimic the landscape in ‘miniature’ detail. For example, rocks were used represent the mountains. Water in ponds was used to represent larger lakes and oceans. Gardens were built to have an overall sense of balance and harmony all while maintaining a natural feeling.
In general a Chinese Gardens were never viewed all at once. The garden was built such that the visitor had to meander through the garden in order to gain the full experience.
When creating a Chinese Garden there are some key points that you will want to keep in
- The garden is naturalistic – the elements in the garden as well as their presentation should represent nature. They should appear natural and not “forced”.
- The garden is meandering – there are few or no straight lines. All paths and watercourses are winding.
- Water should be a major feature – in Chinese Gardens water is the equivalent to a lawn in a typical landscape. Try including a circular pond or a natural watercourse.
- Rocks represent mountains – a rockery should be a part of the garden, either in groups or on their own. Try creating a rock garden or strategically placing rocks to create the look of a “mountain range”
- Enclose the garden – try using moon gates or other screens to create this feeling. This can include using plant materials to create a “wall” such as using Cedars or other Pyramidal trees/shrubs to create a wall effect
Plant material is another large part of the Chinese Garden. Plants should be selected for their symbolic purposes as well as the natural look and feel. When selecting plants give the following plants consideration:
- Flowering Plums Shrubs and Trees
- Flowering Cherries Trees
Chinese Gardens can create wonderful areas of relaxation. The “yin” (female components including water) and “yang” (male components including rock) complete the garden and make it a wonderful place to visit and invite visitors in to explore, finding new things around every corner. Don’t be afraid to explore these gardens and include a small area in your own garden…experiment and have fun! Enjoy your garden adventure!!!
Images courtesy of: iansand