The South West London Gardener

How to Add a Japanese Garden to Your London Home

japanese garden

Many people when looking to transform their outside space want to create something that is peaceful, tranquil, and relaxing.

When living in London where outside space is sometimes hard to come by, having a sanctuary in your own back garden in which you can enjoy all the beauty nature has to offer is a huge blessing.

A style we are seeing grow in popularity thanks to its calming nature is Japanese Gardens.

But creating these serene and colourful places in London comes with its challenges.

Here at the Southwest London Gardener, we know a thing or two about this though, and we’ve created this guide to give you some insight into how it can be possible and show you a project as an example.

But first, let’s start at the beginning.

japanese garden

What is a Japanese Garden?

Originating in Japan, this type of garden is now seen across the world and is loved for its many great qualities.

Serenity and beauty are always in abundance, and these gardens are tailored to be the perfect place for contemplation and reflection.

They are minimalist places, not overcrowded, but more controlled. There is often a sense of concealment about them, with large plants and trees avoiding any feeling of being overlooked.

They also heavily deal in naturalism in the way that they mimic natural landscapes but in a more harmonious, balanced, and stylised way.

Some key features you often find in Japanese Gardens are:

  • Water Features – Water is commonly found in many Japanese Gardens and is used to symbolise fluidity and purity. Things like ponds and waterfalls are also ideal for creating the zen-like atmosphere that is looked for.
  • Rocks and Stones – Rocks are strategically placed throughout Japanese Gardens to add a sense of balance and harmony. In the Japanese culture, these are used to represent islands and mountains.
  • Plants – The placement and choice of plants are very important, and you will often find species such as bonsai and bamboo used to provide an authentic feel. These plants are often pruned and always neat and tidy.
  • Paths and Bridges – Paths and bridges are also common elements, and you often see these made of stepping stones or gravel to stick to the theme running throughout the space. If there is a pond or stream, a bridge is a lovely addition.
bridge in japanese garden

7-Step Guide to Creating a Japanese Garden in London

Step 1: Choose a Style

Several styles exist within Japanese gardens.

You can incorporate hills and ponds if you have the space to create a breathtaking and grand space.

In London, private green space doesn’t often allow for this though, and therefore opting for something on a smaller scale, but still incorporating key elements such as rocks, sand, and water to represent a wider landscape can still have a great effect.

Step 2: Select Appropriate Plants

Choose plants that can thrive in London’s climate while still evoking a Japanese aesthetic.

Evergreens such as pines and bamboo are great for building the right environment and also will provide greenery throughout the year.

Some other flowers commonly used in Japanese gardens are azaleas and camellias which can thrive in the climate of London.

It is also a nice touch to use moss and ferns to cover parts of the ground and add some texture to the space.

Step 3: Incorporate Water Elements

Water is a crucial element, symbolising purity and renewal.

What you can add to your garden heavily relies on how much space you have.

If you can fit a pond in, then that is always a stunning feature. Koi ponds are popular in Japanese gardens, but they require careful maintenance. Ensure you have the means to properly care for the fish and the pond.

For smaller gardens, add water basins or small waterfalls which can provide enjoyment for all the senses and not take up too much room.

Step 4: Add Paths

If you can, try and create meandering paths using stepping stones and gravel. These are great for encouraging slow, meditative walks around your outside space, and also work as a lovely, picturesque element.

Remember, the heavy focus here should be on rocks, sand, and gravel, so try and use these to form most of your elements in this category.

Step 5: Pay Attention to Fencing and Gates

Use bamboo or wooden fencing to create a sense of enclosure and privacy, typical of Japanese gardens.

This is vital for providing a space that is calm and relaxing.

There is nothing better than sitting down and knowing that you are in your own private space with no one looking over you.

And when this is done with Japanese garden-inspired materials such as bamboo, it’s even better.

Step 6: Adapt to the Local Climate

Ensure that your garden design is sustainable in London’s climate. This might mean substituting traditional Japanese plants with local equivalents that have a similar aesthetic.

You should consider this throughout the project, and ensure that everything you add, from the flowers to the fishes, will thrive in this climate.

Step 7: Regular Maintenance

Japanese gardens require regular upkeep to maintain their manicured appearance.

Pruning, raking, and general maintenance are crucial.

A relaxing and serene place can quickly lose its charm if things get overgrown and messy. This is why it is so important to keep a close eye on things and always tidy up where you can.

A Japanese garden should always look in perfect shape, so spend a bit of time every week making sure it is up to that level.

Bonus Step: Seek Expert Advice

Consider consulting with a landscape designer who specialises in Japanese gardens to ensure authenticity and feasibility, especially in adapting to London’s urban setting.

While Japanese gardens do look amazing, adding them to a property is tricky, and that’s why it is always a good idea to seek help if you are unsure or simply need some advice on the best way to approach things.

Transforming an Overgrown London Garden into a Japanese-Inspired Oasis

japanese garden

At The Southwest London Gardener, we recently had the opportunity to transform a heavily overgrown garden into a serene, Japanese-inspired oasis.

Here’s how we approached this challenging but rewarding project:

Initial Challenges

  • Overgrown Bamboo: The garden’s lower end was overwhelmed with out-of-control bamboo, obscuring the space’s potential and beauty.
  • Neglected Lawn and Borders: The lawn had dried out, and succumbed to weeds, and the borders were neglected and cluttered with unwanted greenery.
  • Hidden Garden Features: A stunning maple tree was lost amidst the overgrowth, its beauty hidden and unappreciated.

The Transformation Process

  • Revitalising the Bamboo: We tackled the bamboo first, removing the dead plants and significantly thinning the area. This not only controlled the bamboo but also brought shape and structure back to this part of the garden.
  • Restoring the Beds and Borders: The next step was to clear the beds and prune the borders. We uncovered and cleaned the slate chippings that lay beneath the overgrowth, bringing a neat and tidy look to the borders.
  • Highlighting the Maple Tree: The acer (Japanese maple) was a key focus. We carefully pruned it to reveal its true beauty, turning it into a highlight of the garden and giving it the prominence it deserved.
  • Lawn Renovation: The lawn required extensive work. We removed the old turf, dug over the area, and removed weeds. Following this, we fertilized the soil to prepare for the new turf, which was then laid down, creating a fresh, vibrant lawn.

The Outcome

The result was a breathtaking transformation. The once overgrown and neglected garden became a tranquil space, with the Japanese maple as its centrepiece.

The controlled bamboo added an element of Japanese style, while the refreshed lawn and borders provided a clean, green backdrop.

Want to read more? Then check out our project page here.

Japanese Gardens with The Southwest London Gardener

This project at The Southwest London Gardener is a testament to the potential hidden in every overgrown garden.

With careful planning, hard work, and a focus on highlighting natural beauty, any neglected space can become a serene retreat, inspired by the elegance and simplicity of Japanese garden design.

Want to see if we can do the same for your garden? Then get in touch today.