The Garden Legacy
Japan is a country of great beauty with mountains, lakes, forest, islands, rivers, waterfalls and seashores. From the earliest times the Japanese people have revered the beauties of their natural surroundings. Their gardens are recreations of natural scenes where defective features of nature were eliminated and fair features alone were selected and woven into a canvas according to the designer's idea of beauty.
Originating in Korea and China, Sixth Century Japanese gardens were landscape gardens which adorned palaces and mansions of the nobility, as well as temples and shrines. Thirteenth and Fourteenth Century Buddhist priests of the Zen sect created more reposeful and substantial gardens of stones, water and evergreens which changed little throughout the four seasons.
Sixteenth Century gardens were notable for their color and vigor with huge stones, plants and bold outlines. Interwoven with the extravagant life of the age there was the cult of elegant simplicity forming a striking contrast. This was exemplified by the tea ceremony professed by masters who had their votaires among the Samurai class. Attached to the tea house, where these ceremonies were held, there was a garden conspicuous for its austere simplicity coupled with elegance. The old stone lantern was taken out of the temple compound, where it had been found until this time, and placed in the tea garden because the tea ceremony was often held at night. The weathered appearance of the lanterns harmonized with the rest of the garden. The stone lantern,the water-basin, stepping-stones and steps came in due course to be the leading features in gardenmaking.
Seventeenth Century gardens saw the rise of the Stroll Garden which was a result of an increased area in the gardens adorning large estates of the nobility.
Miniature scenic gems were connected by garden paths leading to ceremonial teahouses. Variety was sought for pleasure and contemplation, but at the same time design focused on the entire garden as an artistic production, characterized by unity and harmony.
In making of paths, the selection and arrangement of stepping-stones and stone pavement, artistic effect suited to the location was always kept in view, and ponds, hills, streams and waterfalls all had to be so disposed as to present an equally appealing effect from whatever point they might be viewed.
The idea was to arrest strollers on their way, make them slow down so they could appreciate an especially fine array of trees or a particular flower. Sometimes a partially blocked view of something ahead was used to beckon the strollers along. At other times "borrowed scenery" (shakkei) was used, perceptually enlarging the garden size by the inclusion of a view outside the garden.
The Japanese Garden as we see it today is most often a monochrome one, in which moss, grasses, shrubs and trees present both subtle and wide-ranging gradations of green, gray and silver tones.The predominant use of evergreen shrubs and trees represent eternal rather than transient beauty. Massed groves of cherry or plum trees so admired for their flowers are kept in separate parts ofthe landscape.Among the flowers or flowering shrubs commonly employed are the iris and the azalea.