If you have ever been to your local botanical garden, you may have admired the Chinese gardens and wondered how to incorporate Chinese landscaping ideas into your own yard. Landscaping and gardening have been favorite pastimes in China for nearly 3,000 years. In fact, some emperors have even bankrupted their treasuries designing beautiful and elaborate private gardens. You don't need to break your piggy bank to incorporate some elements from Chinese landscaping into your yard, though. You can remodel your entire backyard into a Chinese scholars' garden, or you can just borrow a few ideas.
Counter to what you may have been imagining, most traditional Chinese landscapes actually have very few plants. Instead, they are full of built features, stone paths and mulched areas. Contrary to a traditional English garden, which might have dozens of species of plants growing together as though they are imitating wild flowers in nature, Chinese gardens usually have a few carefully selected plants. If you love gardening, think about acquiring a few high maintenance, expensive plants like bonsai to concentrate your attentions on. You should be able to admire each plant in your Chinese garden on an individual basis.
Most larger Chinese gardens have either a pond or stream. Imagine how peaceful and relaxing your backyard might become if you added a goldfish pond or even a small, rocky waterfall to your garden. Then you could admire the view, reduce stress by caring for the fish and enjoy the soothing sounds that a water feature could make.
The architectural elements are what will really make your yard a Chinese garden. Classical Chinese landscaping always incorporates pagodas, bridges, decorative walls and elaborate pavements. If you want to have a real Chinese garden, all of these elements need to be completely constructed from natural materials. You can build your own wooden pagoda one weekend if you are especially handy. If you have no carpentry skills, however, you can also order garden furniture built specifically for Chinese gardens from specialty landscape suppliers.
Unlike many Western gardens, Chinese gardens are not meant to be appreciated while you are strolling through them. Instead, think of your Chinese garden as a series of pictures. In order to create a classical Chinese garden, you need to create beautiful views that are meant to be appreciated from a single spot. This is because Chinese gardens are heavily influenced by two dimensional scroll paintings. Choose a few spots that you plan to admire your garden from, such as a clearing where you want to place a bench, a window from your home or even a picnic table, and organize your landscaping so that it looks best from these particular spots. It might help you to plan two dimensionally to imagine what a photograph of your garden taken from any of these spots would look like. The best Chinese gardens are series of views packed into small spaces, with each view looking very different from the next.