Westerners are often freight with the control bug. They need to control all aspects of everything even in design and planning a design of something that we wish to build. There us the attempt to control all aspects of the project with attention to every detail in an attempt to prevent errors. While you will need to complete the typical organization and planning stages in the creation of a Japanese garden and determine facts such as shape and layout for the garden you should allow some room for “going with the flow” and letting the garden take some of its natural shape. Allow room to improvise and for ideas to come about rather than being restrictive and sticking to every detail of your plan.
So start with the typical drawing up of a simple garden plan before you complete any work in the garden. In doing this here are some questions that you will need to answer:
1. Is there a present garden in the space you wish to use for your Japanese garden design? What type (flower, rustic)?
2. Can the present garden be converted into the Japanese design? Which features can be retained and which will have to be done away with, shifted or replaced?
3. Which one f the many Japanese garden styles is the one that you wish to implement (tea garden, pond/island etc.)? Is it one design or a meld of more than one style? If you have the space then you can have your pick of styles to use.
4. How much space do you have to work with? Is the land undulating? Are there any unique features like streams? Make sure to do a visual scan of the area and note the details. Make measurements so that the exact area that you will be re-landscaping is known.
5. What kind of elements would you like to add? Examples include rock designs, waterfalls etc. Would you like to include a small Zen garden in the landscape? Can a stepping stone path be used to lead to gateways?
6. How much labor resources are at your disposal for the project? Is it you alone or others? This will influence how you build the design. What size, design and how much work you can put out are all important considerations. The creation of a large design can take forever if you are on your own and is impractical.
7. Do you plan on utilizing large rocks or mature trees rather than younger trees? If so, how do you plan to install them? Will there be sufficient room for the machinery to install these items? These items are very heavy.
8. Is the garden design formal, informal or somewhere in the middle?
9. Is there a theme that you wish to build your Japanese garden around? This can include small versions of things such as “The Bridge to Heaven”. This is the famous Dragon Beard Ditch constructed 600 years ago to permit emperors to cross to the Temple of Heaven.
10. What is the purpose of your garden? Is it meditation or do you need a strolling path? Are the sounds of water appealing? Is there need for a quiet sitting area? All these are important in coming up with a design of how to build a Japanese garden to suit you.
These questions are very important and must be answered properly before you start the project on more than paper. If you are not careful you can end up with a design that is impersonal and has no feeling. Japanese gardens must have a purpose for their existence. What is your purpose for creating a Japanese garden?