The lot next-door to my house is empty and rather unsightly. What are some ways that I can block the view from my yard?
There are several options to block unsightly views. Plant a hedge, preferably one already oversized. As it grows, and adapts to your yard, it can be cut to different topiary shapes. You can also instal a wooden or bamboo trellis. If you train creepers (for example, Quisqualis indica double or pyrostegia venusta), it will be a live wall that merges seamlessly with your garden. Or, you can instal a wrought-iron arch arrangement that can support creepers or plants to fill up the vacant space.
I’ve decided that I love the look of a Japanese garden. How can I mimic that in my small front yard?
A Japanese garden is a work of art. The main elements of such a garden are rocks, gravel, water and moss. The most famous of the Japanese garden concepts is Karesansui—a dry landscape in which water is symbolized. The gravel is raked to symbolize ocean tides. The rocks are placed in such a manner as to symbolize natural mountains or islands. Try to be asymmetric in the placement of elements. A few accessories like a stone water basin (tsukubai), a stone lantern or a stone bridge can be added to provide a welcome visual break. Plants are not typically used in this form of design, but you can improvise. Use plants that mimic bonsai or pine shapes, especially those that can be dome-shaped and low in height.
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