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Adapting native plants to achieve a Japanese Garden feel/look.

Posted by dragonfly_wings (My Page) on
Thu, Mar 5, 09 at 19:06

Hi all,

I'm a newbie here. I love the look and feel of a Japanese garden. I live in central Texas in the hill country and have been contemplating using some of the principles of Japanese gardening in my landscape, but will need to use as many native Tx. plants as possible, or at least varieties that do well in this zone (7-8) and can tolerate some drought-like conditions and heat. I'd love to plant some Japanese Maples but don't know how realistic that would be, what with the temps and the alkaline soils around here. I wonder if there are any lists of plants that make good substitutes? For instance, might a Flame Leaf Sumac be a good replacement for the Maples? Can native Junipers and other trees and shrubs be shaped and pruned like their Japanese counterparts?

I just purchased a specimen tree/shrub called Corylus Avellana 'Contorta' which has a beautiful twisty trunk that is exposed in winter after it's draping leaves fall. It's cold hardy and supposedly will do well with medium water once established.

And then there are the Japanese Holly Ferns that are readily available at local nurseries.

Neither are natives, but they work pretty well in this area.

Any central Texans that have found themselves adapting their native Texas environment to their enjoyment of Japanese Gardens?

I'd really like to hear from you about what kinds of choices you are making in plants and landscape design.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Adapting native plants to achieve a Japanese Garden feel/look

Hallo dragonfly, although I to am in zone 7-8 (Netherlands) I think my conditions are still very different from yours. So I do not have any "Texas" experience as such.
However, I do use lots of replacements in my garden, basically because most Japanese species will just not grow or will take too long to get mature. Have a look at my website to see what replacements I used to what purpose.
The most prominent example is the use of Buxus sempervirens for most of my karikomi and hako-zukuri.

An other Plants link I found that may be of use is Peter's garden notes on this url:
http://www.raffia.plus.com/gn/index.htm

Hope this may help, Piet,

Here is a link that might be useful: The Tsubo-en garden home page


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RE: Adapting native plants to achieve a Japanese Garden feel/look

I recently did a pseudo-desert garden (as close as I could for zone 4). I used yucca, sedum, and reed grass for effects.

Thinking about a japanese style garden too, and am thinking dogwood would fit right in, use sedum to simulate jade, spreading junipers would fit, maybe some grass to mimic bamboo....


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RE: Adapting native plants to achieve a Japanese Garden feel/look

Just saw your post here. There are a number of ways you can get the look of a Japanese Garden in central Texas. One big plus is that gravel for pathways and rocks are plentiful. Live Oaks provide character. If you don't mind a few non-natives, bamboo-like Nandina thrives in my yard. Japanese Maples do well here in morning light and afternoon shade. Mine are in containers by the front door.

Metro Maples is a great place to start. They have all the scoop on growing Japanese Maples in Texas.

Here is a link that might be useful: Metro Maples


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RE: Adapting native plants to achieve a Japanese Garden feel/look

IMO a Japanese garden is more about form and design then needing any particular plant.

I think you should be able to do well in any area if you sit back and think about what you have and what your options are. It may not look like a typical Japanese garden but that's a different climate, and it wouldn't make sense to try to force it into your climate.


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RE: Adapting native plants to achieve a Japanese Garden feel/look

Chinese Junipers, aka Hollywood Junipers, can take direct sun and low water, once established. Some have great forms, but don't prune them. Some pines are hardy enough, including mugo pines.


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RE: Adapting native plants to achieve a Japanese Garden feel/look

There is a nice Japanese Garden in the back of the Nimitz Museum in Fredricksburg, TX. Japanese students come to maintain it as gesture of reconcilliation for WWII.

There ya go. A Japanese Garden in the Hill Country.


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RE: Adapting native plants to achieve a Japanese Garden feel/look

Native plants of central Texas for a Japanese style garden would have to include some confers (pines for example), also what about ornamental grasses. Grasses are drought-tolerant, colorful, offer contrasting textures, and even the sound of rustling leaves--very Zen, very Japanese!


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RE: Adapting native plants to achieve a Japanese Garden feel/look

I'm getting interested in starting a Japanese garden in New Jersey. One thing that I've read is that the garden reflects what we see in nature. I take that to mean that the gardener should definitely use native plants to reflect what is in his particular location. Axeman, above, posted that these gardens are more about form and design -- I'd have to agree. Our objective in a Japanese garden is to bring nature closer to home.

Good luck!


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RE: Adapting native plants to achieve a Japanese Garden feel/look

I'm not good at posting pictures here, but if you'll e-mail me, I'll send you some pics of what my wife and I have done. We have carried the Asian theme from our front yard, through the house and into the back yard......We're in our mid-fifties and the whole environment is totally relaxing, calm and peaceful......PERFECT for us as we have 5 kids and 5 grandkids....we need a calm place to go!!! :)


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RE: Adapting native plants to achieve a Japanese Garden feel/look

I am growing japanese persimmons in Bastrop. They make a striking small tree. Bambusa multiplex "Ak" has held up well.


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RE: Adapting native plants to achieve a Japanese Garden feel/look

  • Posted by oath5 z6b/7a MD (My Page) on
    Sun, Aug 7, 11 at 17:27

Northern Sea oats, native grass has a very bamboo-like appearance with lovely large oat like seed heads. I try to use it where I can to give a slightly Japanese look.

I keep meaning to buy more books on Japanese garden design. Any suggestions?


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