Nature in a Jar: Small Courtyard Gardens of Japanese Homes
These traditional Japanese gardens can be adapted to modern homes anywhere in the world
Though tsuboniwa — “jar gardens” — are an element of traditional Japanese architecture, they are perfect for small homes and condominiums of any style or country. While classical tsuboniwa are set within two exterior walls of the home, a similar effect can be achieved with walls or fences. Regardless of their form, tsuboniwa are always compact and designed more for viewing than for sitting. Plantings are chosen carefully, often with a single Japanese maple as the focal point. Stepping stones and larger ornamental stones are a common element of tsuboniwa, as are stone lanterns.
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Although this house is an example of a modern Japanese house with a deck-like engawa (exterior hallway) it wraps around its tsuboniwa in traditional style. The garden features moss, a stone lantern and a single tree against the exterior fence.
Although Japanese in style, this contemporary house is far more open to the elements than traditional houses. The tsuboniwa is surrounded on three sides by the house. White stepping stones highlight two handsome maple trees.
Another view of the same house reveals a second tsuboniwa across the hallway, this one planted with palms.
Sliding glass doors provide views and easy access to this tsuboniwa, the only Japanese element of this otherwise contemporary western-style house.
Pale wood and modern architecture are complemented by this sunny, minimalist tsuboniwa. The focal point is the Japanese maple at center.
This hybrid house has a western-style living area, but the broad eaves and exterior hallways recall traditional Japanese architecture. The tsuboniwa is unusually large and features grass, a western element.
Another hybrid house has a tsuboniwa in a courtyard bracketed by sliding glass doors at left and wooden amado (rain doors) at right.