The "Inspired" Landscape

by Ben Bowen

What Inspires Your Landscape Design Style?

Truly great gardens are often dominated by one landscape style. The Portland Japanese Garden, for example, is great because it is authentic. It's as pure as a Japanese garden can be- while still being located in Portland. Sissinghurst Castle houses a true English Garden, untainted by outside influences.

You probably have a style, maybe a few, that appeal to you. But is purity your goal? Probably not. For most of us, an "inspired" landscape is more realistic. Japanese-inspired and English-inspired landscapes are common. You may even want a landscape that has several influences- like a client of mine who wants an Asian/French-inspired landscape.

Why is the "inspired" garden a good approach for many landscape designs? Here are 4 benefits:

Examples of Asian-influenced landscape designs:


  1. Flexibility. Authenticity comes at a cost. You may have to sacrifice preferences or elements. For example, you love your roses. And you want an authentic Japanese garden. Say good bye to the roses. There just is no way to integrate roses into a Japanese garden without diluting it. Trust me, I looked. They have roses in Japan- but not in the kind of garden you are thinking of!
  2. Maintenance. The maintenance requirements for most distinctly styled gardens is.... VERY high. To keep your garden pure as it ages will require that every plant, all the beds, from all the viewing angles be rigorously cared for. Can you or your current landscaper even handle it? On the other hand, an "influenced" garden can have areas that need less care.
  3. Cost. Here in Portland there are many landscape designers and contractors that can create an "inspired" garden. But how many can create an authentic Japanese garden? Not too many. Why? Because it takes a specific skill set, knowledge, and body of experience. All of that will be reflected in the cost of your project.
  4. Resale. When you go to sell your home some day, what will potential buyers think of your formal English garden or 10,000 gallon koi pond? A small number of people will love it and want it. Everyone else will see a liability or a remodel project.

When it comes down to it, it's your house and garden. It should reflect your desires. But before you start bringing in hundreds of boxwoods for your hedgerows, or have the pallet of white granite chips delivered for the meditation space, count the cost. Maybe an "inspired" garden will inspire you.