Japanese Garden Planting Techniques: O-Karikomi


A Japanese term, O-karikomi refers to a massed grouping of plants that form one shape, usually in a gently flowing way. Keep in mind this is a general term and may refer to groupings of the same or a variety of different tall shrubs, or a grouping of smaller shrubs tightly sheared. The key is that one uniform mass is created.

The gardens of Japan are successful for a number of reasons, but one common theme is that they feel uncluttered. A tea garden may be more natural and include a variety of different plants, but perhaps they all tend to be different shades and textures of green, evoking a “deep mountain path.”

Other more stylized gardens may not seem as natural, but their success may come in part to the clean, crisp look they exhibit, and may in fact have a limited variety of plants. This is a helpful thought especially in our area where the tendency is to include too many plants, resulting in a jumbled look.

O-karikomi therefore is something that can help our gardens take on a crisp look. And it can help to add continuity as well. Having multiple locations throughout the garden with similar masses of shrubs, sheared as a gentle flowing mass is one way of making the landscape look more like a composition and less like a botanical garden.

Some broad-leaved evergreens that are suitable for this include varieties of azalea, boxwood, Japanese holly, inkberry, etc. For other reference see Azaleas in Japanese Gardens, and Japanese Garden Plants: Korean Boxwood.

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