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Japanese Theme For A Water Garden or Koi Pond Gardening Project

Some plants that will fit the overall Japanese theme for a koi pond are discussed below. Of course Japan and koi are synonymous and we've all seen those magnificent landscape paintings of immaculate, well laid out obviously Japanese gardens. Somehow we can recognize a Japanese garden theme from miles away.

What is it that makes these Japanese garden styles so different, harmonious and special? Why is the Japanese water garden such a well respected form of koi pond and ornamental lake landscaping?

The first point is that formal gardens in Japan are created from very few types of plans. Unlike the UK gardening scene where variety is everything this is not the case in Japan koi gardens especially. By the way many British plants originate in Japan.

Westerners can best add a Japanese touch to their own garden ponds and  water features by thinking of getting back to nature.

This is what you see in well themed Japanese gardens... natural shapes and forms which capture the essence of the natural world and manage to concentrate this into what are very small spaces (land is extremely expensive in Japan)  and turn that small space in a beautiful little aquatic landscape.

Japanese use hard materials as well as plants to create the water garden themes ... pebbles, boulders and the like. Pond landscaping with plant material is shaped using special pruning methods. And Japanese koi ponds have sophisticated koi pond filters (vortex filters and Japanese matting) that keep the water clean, healthy and crystal clear.

Japanese Garden Plants

The Japanese like the planted garden to be slow growing. They strive for a landscape that evokes symbols and especially ones relating to times of the year or the seasons. Of course each season is characterised by change ... in colour, in flower and in leaf.

So spring sees a profusion of flowering Cherry blossoms (like the Yoshino Cherry, or the Japanese Apricot) and then the majestic Camellias. In Autumn there is magnificent dying colours of the maple leaves. In the UK we welcome the vibrant colours of rhododendrons (dwarf type suits Japanese gardens best) and acid loving Azaleas. Pines like the Red Pine, the Black Pine, Pinus thunbergii are pruned to create shapes and features. Screening plants include bamboos and ground cover is usually just bright green moss.

Other Suggested Plants for the Japanese Themed Koi Pond or Water Garden

  • Take for instance the trees Cornus controversa variegata, Malus x zumi (a Japanese Crab apple), or the shrubs like Hydrangea macrophylla, the Cotoneasters, Chaenomeles, Fatsias, Kerria, Magnolias, Loniceras, Spiraeas and Viburnum plicatum 'Maresii' (the Wedding cake tree).

  • Perennials can include the Japanese Irises, hostas, Primula sieboldii, chrysanthemums, some asters, Peonies, Hemerocallis and Polygonums. This is only a small selection of possibilities but enough to get you going.


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