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Question: We have a Cape Cod house but most of our furniture is very Japanese. We like a clean ...

Updated: Feb 10, 2020

Asian style and don’t want to change. Our problem is the garden especially the front yard. We have about 30 rose bushes, a large climbing rose, camellias, hydrangeas, and a lawn. It’s like an overgrown English garden. What can we add to it so that it integrates better with the Asian style we have inside?

(Originally published in the Napa Valley Register)

The good news is that you don’t have to add anything. The bad news is that my answer probably won’t be satisfying. These two styles are very different, as you know. But in thinking about your question, I came up with a bit of common ground.

Both styles convey a sense of relaxation. They just go about it in different ways. An Asian interior is serene because of its quiet manner of organization, lack of clutter, lack of frills, and its use of natural woods, rattans, and fabrics in its furnishings. A cottage garden is relaxing by the mere fact that it is a garden. In your case, colorful flowers with minds of their own, growing where and how they wish. I also suspect you have busy hummingbirds, butterflies and chirping birds. Breathe it all in and you can’t help but feel at peace even with all this activity.

Even though the inside and outside of your home are not compatible visually, they do reflect the same mood. So, build on that. If it’s the exterior you want to modify, then enhance this mood using your interior point of view. That is, instead of adding to your front yard, refine it. You mentioned that it was overgrown, so start by pruning and shaping your camellias and roses. Research your variety of camellias to know how and when they should be cut. Then, stand across the street to assess how this has helped and see what more you can do to tidy up.

How can your yard look cleaner, tighter, and more manicured like your interiors? Relocate any misplaced plants, especially potted ones, to the back or side yard. It goes without saying that any kind of garden art, bird feeders, chimes, furniture, decorative or whimsical objects should also be relocated to the back. Have you ever seen a Japanese garden with a smiley-faced daisy pinwheel or butterfly flag telling you which way the wind was blowing? No way. They are plastic distractions that make beautiful, natural and living gardens cry.

Japanese gardens have their own style of plants, trees, greenery, and water fountains. But, don’t be tempted to integrate them into yours. They will look confused and out of place. Don’t try to bring your indoors out but do bring your outdoors in with freshly cut roses and enjoy your peaceful home, both inside and out.

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