Sunday, May 30, 2010

Japanese Gardens In Any Climate

After touring the San Francisco Japanese Tea Gardens last weekend, I was inspired. You might ask yourself why I was so inspired, since many of the plants will not even grow in my climate...The High Desert. When you think of Japanese Gardens, tumbleweeds, sagebrush and lupine don't really come to mind. However, by studying the layout of the Gardens, it can be quite simple to recreate this same pristine and meditative outdoor space using plant material conducive to your own climate.

I typically buy plants for a Zone 4 climate. It can range from Zone 3 to Zone 6 depending on where in Central Oregon you may live. If you are outside of Central Oregon, find out what Zone you are and check your local resources for plant species ideas.

Our harsh climate can often be too much for bamboo. However, there are several ornamental grasses that can give an interesting look to your garden. A few of my favorites are Calamagrostis arundinacea 'Karl Foerster' or 'Overdam' (Feather reed grass), Miscanthus sinensis 'November Sunset' or 'Sarabane' (Japanese silver grass) and Panicum virgatum 'Heavy Metal' (Switch grass). If you have your heart set on a true bamboo look, consider incorporating bamboo planting borders, wall trellises, a full bamboo screen or even a deer chaser water feature.

Some varieties of Rhododendron do well in Central Oregon, but for full sun areas you may want to consider Compact Burning Bush, Ash leaf Spirea, 'Gold Flame' Spirea, Daphne, Cistena Plum, or Shirobana Spirea. My favorite Rhododendrons are the 'Nova Zembla', 'Roseum Elegans' and 'The General'. Other shade tolerant plants to consider are Vine Maple, Red Japanese Maple, Multi-stemmed Serviceberry or Black Lace.

Evergreens are an important part of Japanese Gardens. They create structure and year-round balance within the space. Consider 'Green Mountain' Boxwood, Rock Daphne, 'Hick's' Yew, Dwarf White Pine, Pumila Spruce, Columnar Spruce, Globosa Spruce or a 'Pom Pom' Pine. Junipers would make a nice substitute for Cypress. I prefer 'Robusta Green', 'Old Gold' or 'Golden Pfitzer'.

Don't forget to fill in the small spaces with ground cover and perennials! Red Creeping Thyme, Woolly Thyme, Blue Woolly Speedwell, Siberian Iris, Hostas, Ferns, and Ornamental Oregano.

This, by no means, is a lesson on how to create a Japanese Garden. I hope it just opens your eyes to the possibilities of creative gardening!

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