The Elements For Creating a Japanese Garden

The Key Elements of a Japanese Garden

Japanese gardens are growing in popularity nowadays. This can be attributed to its graceful combination of plants, water and rocks all meticulously arranged to invite a sense of calm and tranquility. If you’re looking to build your own Japanese garden at home, here are important principles you should keep in mind:

1. Your stone layout sets the foundation

As Ancient Japanese mythology puts great importance to mountains and stones as the foundation of the earth, the Japanese consider this as one of their most important principles in designing their own zen gardens. They believe that stones form the frame of the garden and if they are properly arranged, the other parts of the garden should automatically arrange itself. If you’re just in the process of designing your Japanese garden, some ideas include incorporating raked gravel around islands or laying out uniform-sized gray river rocks to create a stream bed.

2. The water serves as the basis of the whole garden composition

Water is considered an essential part of every Japanese garden, as it symbolizes the steady and continuous flow of time. Elements of water in the Japanese garden are evident in their pond installations and thin water strings flowing through rocks, as well as in rocks, gravel and sand where water seems to have run dry to symbolize the passing of time. It might be a good idea to introduce falling water or bamboo fountains in your garden design to complete the Japanese garden flavor.

3. The architecture must help design a path

As the Japanese culture put a lot of significance on life being a path, its gardens are designed to take guests through a carefully designed path. On top of keeping with tradition, the main function of the path in Japanese garden design is the unification of all garden elements. They also put significant importance in designing architecture that complements the path. These are usually made of natural materials such as wood, stone and metal.

Traditional Japanese garden architecture includes pavilions, stone lanterns and wells. You can make your own tea house in the middle of your garden by using bamboo. You can even add your own personal touch to your garden by adding stone water jars or bamboo garden fences to give the impression of lightness and grace.

4. Use plants to create the background

Every Japanese garden is designed in a way that plants always obey the stone layout. So, instead of letting the plants dictate how you want your garden to look, always keep in mind your stone layout in selecting the plants that will soften the lines and create the background. You can select different kinds of garden plants to complement your stone layout from evergreens and conifers to blooming trees and shrubs, all the way to local hardwoods and perennial forest flowers. Don’t be afraid to prune the trees in order to echo your garden’s architectural design and create subtle reflections in water.

Apart from the minimalism of Japanese gardens, what most people do not realize with the design is that it attempts to illustrate the unique relationship between man and nature. Man should always improve nature, by showing its essence, and not by pressuring it to its needs. If you only keep this in mind, you’ll be able to design a Japanese-style garden that not only complies with its aesthetics but also its founding philosophy.

Gardening: Studies Show Gardening Can Reduce the Risk of Dementia & Other Mental Illnesses

Anyone who has spent any extended time in a garden can tell you that, after a few hours with their hands in the dirt, they feel rejuvenated and refreshed. Now, recent studies into the effects of gardening and mental health are taking huge steps towards proving, scientifically, that these improvements are not just a product of the placebo effect. In various scientific studies performed around the world, researchers are finding that there may actually be both biological, and psychological ways in which gardening can improve over-all mental health. These studies suggest that a decision to add a garden area to your out-door living space may play a crucial role in preventing many of the crippling ailments which seem to go with aging.

Gardening and Dementia

Some research suggests that gardening can help lower the risk of developing dementia. In two separate studies, researchers followed people in their 60s and 70s for up to 16 years. Their observations, respectively, concluded that those who gardened regularly had a 36% and 47% lower risk of dementia than non-gardeners, even when a range of other health factors were taken into account.

Although the results are far from definitive, they suggest that the physical and mental activity involved in gardening may have a positive influence on the mind.

And for people who are already experiencing mental decline, even just walking in a garden is therapeutic. Many residential homes across the nation designed to house people with dementia, now have “wander” or “memory” gardens on their grounds. These gardens designed for residents with Alzheimer’s disease or other cognitive problems, allowing them to walk through them without getting lost. The sights, smells, and sounds of the garden promote relaxation and reduce stress.

Gardening and Depression

One of many scientific studies conducted on the subject happened in Norway. The study looked at a group of people who diagnosed with depression, persistent low mood, or “bipolar 2 disorder”. For the study, the participants spent six hours a week growing flowers and vegetables in gardens. The results were clear. After three months, half of the participants had experienced a measurable improvement in their depression symptoms. What’s more, their mood continued to improve three months after the gardening program ended. Some scientists suggest that it is simply the novelty of gardening to the subjects of the study which produced the results; however, some experts have a much more radical explanation for how gardening might ease depression; Bacteria.

Bacteria in Soil and Mental Health

Christopher Lowry, Ph.D., an assistant professor of integrative physiology at the University of Colorado at Boulder, has been injecting mice with Mycobacterium, a harmless bacteria commonly found in soil, and has found that they increase the release and metabolism of serotonin in parts of the brain that control cognitive function and mood — much like serotonin-boosting antidepressant drugs do.

Now, it is important to note that exposure to such bacteria is in no way a replacement for taking a prescription anti-depressant. It merely suggests that a large part of the reason we, as a society, are experiencing depression at higher and higher rates is that we are no longer exposed to these helpful bacteria borne of putting our hands in soil. Simplified: when our society was less developed, most people spent at least some part of their time digging in the dirt or touching soil, which exposed them to these bacteria. In modern times, most people don’t make contact with soil and thus don’t make contact with the Mycobacterium we used to, and this may be a contributing factor to depression.

(for further reading on bacteria in soil and mental health, read this blog post written by Naomi Sachs on TLN: “Its in the Dirt, Bacteria in Soil may make us happier, smarter”)

Horticulture Therapy

As further evidence of a causal relationship between gardening and mental health, one can see the rapid growth and implementation of gardening as a therapy to help those in mental distress. NPR touched on the subject in their article titled, “Can Gardening Help Troubled Minds Heal?” which discusses a program in Hawaii called Pacific Quest which uses gardening to help troubled teens. In the program, the teens raise a garden, from seedling to dinner plate with little to no involvement with the staff. This allows the teens to problem solve for themselves, build interpersonal relationships, and overcome mental barriers by emotionally engaging them. And the results are proving incredibly positive for teens who go through the program.

Beyond that program, gardening is utilized in a myriad of unexpected places such as detention facilities, mental health hospitals, veteran’s homes and more. This growth in horticulture therapy is a product of continued success when using gardening as a therapeutic tool.

In closing

Although there is no proof that gardening improves mental health, it is extremely difficult to ignore the results which keep repeating themselves across the nation. Gardening focuses the mind, it relieves the incredibly harmful “attention fatigue” which is a result of prolonged exposure to screens, it improves motor function, reduces stress, and promotes over all well-being. Whether it is the bacterium which seems to boost serotonin production, or simply the joy and sense of accomplishment of watching a seed grow into a fully formed plant, gardening is proving that a simple step that anyone can take to cut their risk of common mental health ailments and increase quality of life.

Kitchen Gardens, A Source of Health

Food, the principle source of energy for our body is also a source of disease and uneasiness. Safer the food is healthier a person will be. Due to industrialization and environmental degradation the quality of available food is also degraded. Excessive use of insecticides, pesticides and chemical fertilizers has increased the food quantitatively but not qualitatively. When a consumer eats a food which is produced by excessive use of chemicals then the health of consumer is on the edge of vulnerability. So providence of safe and healthy food is a big issue, organically grown fruits and vegetables are most beneficial for health and for producing organically grown food, kitchen gardening or home gardening is the most reliable activity. It is a hobby and also a need for health conscious people.

In kitchen gardening plants are grown for consumption in house, majorly kitchen gardening is considered as growing of vegetables for consumption in house, but kitchen gardening is more than production of vegetables only. Kitchen gardening or home gardening is an art, technology and technique of maintaining nature and growing fruits, vegetables, spices, condiments and medicinal herbs in a family house, for in house consumption or in either way for kitchen use. It is said, that there are certain limitations for practicing kitchen gardening, that, this system must comprise of a family house, having a recreational area or a garden, for practicing this technique but, our point of view is, that it can also be practiced on roof-tops by using containers and pots.

If there is no availability of space on the ground then this healthy gardening activity can be practiced on house tops by the use of pots and containers. Requirement of spare time for garden establishment and management is a considerable factor; a person can only spend time in this gardening activity if he has interest in it, so to develop interest in gardening is a key factor for establishment and management of kitchen gardens. For practicing garden activity one should know the skills to establish and manage a garden. So, space, time, interest and skills are some major aspects needed for establishment of kitchen gardens.

While thinking about a kitchen/home garden, the main motive which comes in one’s mind is providence of healthy and nutritious food but benefits of kitchen/home gardens are far more than that. Garden plants and their various colors stimulate healthy brain activity. Green colour can also act positively in enhancing brain efficiency. Children and youth should also be involved in such practices; by this they can increase their exposure to fruit and vegetable consumption. For increasing children and youth involvement in garden based activities there is a need for garden based educational programs. These garden based educational programs will increase healthful eating behavior in children as well as in youth, leading to self-aware and healthy generation.

Kitchen gardening technique can also be practiced by housewives. They can adopt this technique as a hobby; by practicing kitchen gardening they will be able to reduce daily expenses and can ensure the providence of healthier, nutritious, cheaper and quality vegetables for their family.

So it can be concluded that kitchen gardens or home gardens can play a vital role in reducing health hazards and can ensure providence of healthy and nutritious vegetables.