Casual Gardener: Less is more in a Japandi garden

Japandi merges the best of Japanese minimalism with Scandinavian cosiness…

IN some way it must be down to globalisation but I still can’t get my around Japandi, a minimalist style that takes its inspiration from both Japan and Scandinavia – locations separated by a mere 5,000 miles. The philosophy behind Japandi, according to one of its advocates, is an “appreciation for simplicity, traditional craftsmanship, and a respect for natural and enduring materials”. By all accounts it has taken the world of interior design by storm and many of its principles are being adopted in outdoor spaces too, where it’s said to be especially suited to autumnal gardens.

According to Matt Jordan, gardening expert for The Greenhouse People, Japandi gardens should “inspire tranquillity”, meaning you should avoid overwhelming your space with lots of plant species and undefined focal points. “Instead, use hardscaping to direct attention where it is needed,” he says.

Matt recommends the addition of large boulders, often used in Japanese gardens as abstract, natural art pieces that are both structural and subtle, seamlessly blending in with their environment while drawing focus. “Alternatively, take inspiration from Karesansui gardens, also known as Zen gardens, which embrace the beauty of blank spaces. In these gardens, gravel or sand is raked into calming patterns to promote contemplation,” he says.

Your planting regime is relatively straight forward – there’s no bright bedding schemes here, just subtle architectural shrubs and trees. Acers, otherwise known as Japanese maples, are essential for adding colour and texture to even the smallest of gardens. These deciduous trees will showcase stunning autumnal colours as their foliage turns with the season. Some varieties can grow up to 25 feet tall, while others can be kept miniature by being grown in a pot. They’re also hardy and will therefore stand the worst an Irish winter can throw at them.

Alternatively, bamboo is widely grown in Japan, despite originating in China, and is perfect for screening your serene Japandi garden. Just be sure to plant bamboo in pots rather than directly into the ground as it has tendency to be invasive. The cosy Scandinavian aspect of Japandi, according to Matt, is best applied in your outdoor seating area.

“Furniture styles should be simplistic, functional and above all comfortable,” he says. “So, if you love an outdoor sofa, opt for traditional squarer frames with clean lines.”

Both Scandinavian and Japanese styles favour natural textures, he adds, recommending avoiding anything “too plastic” and instead favouring traditional, durable materials such as wicker, treated wood or stone.

“You should also incorporate soft materials such as weather-proof throw pillows, blankets and outdoor rugs to soften hard textures and achieve the cosy factor during the cooler autumn evenings,” says Matt.

He also urges gardeners to embrace the Japanese philosophy of Wabi-Sabi, which teaches that imperfection can be beautiful, whether it’s landscapes or objects.

“A Japandi garden should appreciate the passing of time and how ageing can heighten beauty,” says Matt.

“So, no need to replace your outdoor furniture if it’s looking a little worn – look to natural textures such as uneven cobblestones, weathered wood and mossy rocks which can all contribute to the natural beauty of Japandi design.”

The pièce de résistance in any garden, but especially Japandi gardens, is the water feature.

“Your Japandi garden should be a calming oasis for peaceful self-reflection but living in a noisy built-up area can quickly put a damper on your serenity,” he says.

“Investing in a water feature is a great way to both drown out unwanted noise and give your garden a focal point.”

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