The garden is a representation of Nature only insofar as natural artifacts are concerned. Symbolically, the garden is meant to incorporate natural and manmade materials to mirror and contribute to our understanding of human consciousness, Rocks, plants and water are used as simple materials for the artists to express strictly human values. In fact, the garden represents everything wilderness is not. Like the arts of bonsai or ikebana, nature is controlled, manipulated and compartmentalizes to purely human ideals of nature.
The current rage in urban beautification is to have beautifully landscaped road dividers. These are fast becoming the only patches of green in this increasingly concrete-riddled city of ours. If we look back a few years, though, we would find a lot of individual houses in residential areas like Gulshan, Banani, and Dhanmondi, which featured lovely flower gardens in the front and orchards in the back. Over the past decade, though, this trend declined, giving way to compact apartment buildings that have little room for greenery. The apartment lifestyle may accommodate more people, but if you think of environment, garden is essential for healthy living.
The gardens of East-Asia have a strong spiritual dimension. In both China and Japan, combinations of plants, rockwork and water transcend the purely simple functions of decoration, display and recreation, to include symbolic representations of religious concepts.
In the twentieth century, the greatest influence on Western garden design has been the gardens of Japan, now familiar for their perfect arrangements of stones and mosses, their pines, and tranquil waters.
In this week's feature we will discuss the Japanese garden. Stone, water and plants, are the three basic elements of Japanese garden.
Water an important feature of the Japanese garden, providing sound, motion and fluidity. If a garden is too small for a pond, a small bamboo or stone fountain can create water sounds and effects. Providing much-needed refreshment during hot, humid Japanese summer, water is instrumental in creating the atmosphere of the garden. Although it is a fast, free flowing element, water's calming qualities encourage contemplation and meditation.
Bridges are functional links within gardens, but they can also be appreciated for their aesthetic and architectural qualities. The Chinese preferred highly ornate decorative bridges, while the Japanese often used un-worked natural materials, such as stone slabs and unfinished wooden planks.
Japanese designers are masters of the art of bridging water. They create dramatic visual effects by suspending stone slabs on larger rack bases, or throwing a line of stepping stones across a stretch of water. Wood is another favored material, to make raised-log bridges of arched wood, or arranged in liner partners to make L-shaped features over the water. Wooden slats or plants in zigzag patterns are often used over marshy ground.
So, when you connect with nature, you are also connecting with your spiritual self. The world beyond our windows is so easy to forget. Ringing telephones and flickering computer monitor can make trees and birds, rivers and fish seem distant and perhaps, irrelevant to pressing daily needs. Yet, during times of trouble, there is nothing as comforting as a stroll through the park. Simply taking time to study a leaf on a shell will smooth away many of life's worries.
Nazneen Haque Mimi
Photo Credit: Journeyman Archive