Japanese Garden Design

Look for the nuances of Japanese garden design as you meander through the Cloister Garden.


Evergreen trees and shrubs are common in Japanese gardens for the practicality of four-season beauty, although deciduous plantings like the Japanese maple are used as accents. Annuals and perennials are rarely found, and that’s where the Cloister Garden departs ever so slightly from the Japanese theme. The garden’s Woodland Amble offers a broad expanse of naturalized perennials that bloom in a profusion of color.

While flowers are not common in Japanese gardens, flowering trees and shrubs like azaleas are. Surprisingly, in the true Japanese garden azaleas are pruned before they bloom to avoid an alteration in the scale or tone of the garden.

More exotic plants such as bamboo and moss also are traditionally Japanese.

In a Japanese Garden, what the gardener does with the plant is more important than the plant itself. Pruning and garden layout are generally given more importance than plant selection. Plants are arranged to create a sense of balance and contrast, yet each plant can be enjoyed on its own merit.


The path is an important element in a Japanese garden. The texture and pattern of the path is part of the pleasure of meandering through the garden. In the garden, as in life, the path provides choices – to pass through a gate, idle or to simply move on. The path through the Cloister Garden is typically Japanese, yet friendly to the handicapped.

Fences and Tea House

Fences, which are tied together and roof-covered to protect them from the elements, define space in a Japanese garden and hide views that are not in harmony with the garden.

The teahouse is a serene common sight in Japanese gardens.

Water Features

Typically, Japanese gardens have a water feature to create a sense of space. Water features are expressed either as a pond or as stones that provide the illusion of rushing water. Stones are often placed in ponds to create the image of islands.