Even though people may think of their beautiful flowers, this is not the main reason azaleas are one of the most commonly-seen plants in Japanese gardens. When properly done, groups of azaleas can be sheared into large masses, or individual semi-spherical shapes, adding crisp, clean lines and a voluptuousness to garden compositions.
While specimen trees like pines can be stunning, many Japanese gardens would not feel complete without the added dimension that azaleas provide. The two main possibilities are to group the azaleas together to form one large mass, called O-Karikomi in Japanese, or to plant between one and seven azaleas in a group to form a single semi-spherical shape, known as Tamamono. Both of these uses offers valuable possibilities to garden owners in the West as well.
Many homeowners in the West, while they may desire a Japanese garden feel, may not be able or willing to adopt all Japanese garden planting features, like specimen pine trees. The use of azaleas mentioned above may provide many solutions. Proper shearing and shaping must be done with hand-shears to attain the desired form, but this is a very attainable garden element.