The challenge of creating an intimate garden in the urban environment is often daunting. Luckily, the Japanese garden tradition offers many solutions.
The practice of turning any type of small urban space into an enchanting visual treat has been a common occurrence in the cities of Japan for centuries.
Big keys to success are maximizing the view of the garden from inside, creating an enclosure and/or enhancing the enclosure, then coming up with a layout of quality materials that is not too busy. The space, whether a terrace garden, balcony garden, narrow passageway, or breakfast nook, should be simple and refined. Trying to cram too many different elements into one space will just create a muddled effect.
Japanese gardens built in urban areas often have other considerations that suburban neighborhoods do not have to worry as much about. For example, weight restrictions will be a consideration if the Japanese garden is to be constructed on a terrace or balcony, penthouse atrium, etc. Drainage may also be more of an issue. Figuring out how water will enter and leave the space is a major factor to think about and resolve in the planning stages.
Other concerns may be full shade, wind, or the lack of below-ground planting space. Choosing shade-tolerant plants will solve the first issue. Erecting wind barriers or choosing wind-tolerant plants should solve the second issue, and using planters or building up soil levels may be the solution for the last issue.
Usually in small Japanese gardens, the details are emphasized. For example, using high-quality materials for the enclosure and any walking paths or stones can make up for the lack of space and variation in plant materials. Keeping it simple and having a clear concept that shows off the quality material and layout is often the best approach for small urban gardens.