Chinese gardens have no design specifications. They share a suite of characteristics, but none are required. It does not resemble a wilderness and it does not resemble a formal garden as in the French tradition. A Chinese garden is a blending of nature with construction by man.
I built a pavilion in my garden (above). It is large enough for a table and some chairs so one can take refreshment or meals there out of the summer sun. I placed it near one end of the garden, ensuring that a view of the opposite end, though pleasing, is only partial.
One of my design goals was to have a garden that was not only asymmetrical, but also never entirely in view. The asymmetry provides different views of the garden from different positions in it and from different windows in the house. Just click on an image to see a fuller picture.
I also used plants to partially screen portions of the garden. The partial screening fosters the impression that the garden is larger and piques the curiosity.
I made the pathways curved. The curves slow the eye and relax the mind. Traditional gardens usually have pathways paved with stones formed into intricate designs. In contrast, I covered my pathways with sand. They are barefoot-friendly, so your feet tell you that you’re in a place to relax.
Chinese gardens traditionally have a water feature. In some gardens they are the dominant feature, large enough for bridges and islands. My water feature is small, but the sound of its waterfall pervades the garden. The sound fosters relaxation even with closed eyes.
I have created a secluded place in my garden. It is a place to sit where plants surround you closely and where greenery filters the intense rays of the summer sun. Man-made structures fade from sight, enhancing a feeling of solitude. The sound of the waterfall and the gentle rustle of bamboo swaying in the breeze keep you company. It is compatible with reading, contemplation, or writing poetry. I call it the Poet’s Nook although I haven’t written any poetry there.
In addition to bringing relaxation through feet, eyes, and ears, I have also given attention to the nose. Floral essences are produced by a variety of plants in my garden. Although their flowering periods overlap they are not identical, providing a tropical aroma-scape that changes throughout the warmer months.
To maximize the feel of being in another place, I have covered most of the fencing with plants and directed visual focus away from the garden borders. One of these focal points is my rock. Because of its amorphous shape and deep topography, it presents different views from different locations in the garden. Also, as the sun crosses the sky, its shadows and highlights change, giving the rock a dynamic aspect. Compare the views below with the one through the house main window in the first picture gallery above. Natural forces in China sculpted my rock. Such rocks are often displayed in Chinese gardens and are greatly admired. One rock was of such remarkable beauty that it was given the name “Jade” and is on display in the Yu garden in Shanghai.