How to incorporate Japanese landscaping philosophy into your own backyard or balcony

11 June 2020

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s the importance of our natural surroundings. While our homes have been our safe havens, time in isolation has also reinforced the importance of fresh air, sunlight, greenery and nature.
At Sekisui House we’ve long recognised the importance of the natural environment, with the ‘Gohon no ki’ landscaping concept, meaning ‘five trees’, serving as a guiding principle in all our communities.
Gohon no ki is all about selecting native and indigenous tree species that are beneficial to local living creatures. The principle is based on the idea of planting three trees for the birds and two trees for the butterflies. And whether it’s on the scale of shared parklands, a village common, a private garden or even a balcony, Gohon no ki can be applied to your outdoor spaces.
So how can you recreate the concept of Gohon no ki in your own backyard or balcony? It starts with understanding the native flora and fauna in your local area.
The Common at West Village is home to a range of east coast natives, including Bird Nest Ferns (Asplenium nidus), Flame Trees (Brachychiton acerifolius), Tree Ferns (Cyathea australis), Bottle Trees (Brachychiton rupestris) and Ornamental Ginger (Alpinia zerumbet).

The Flame Tree is a striking presence at The Common at West Village, and can be found next to The Garden Pantry.
The Flame Tree is famous for its bell shaped bright red flowers that cover the entire tree when it’s leafless, and often puts on its best floral display once every five years, particularly following a hot dry summer.


Ornamental Ginger trees can be found scattered throughout The Common

The Ornamental Ginger, which is related to edible ginger, is a great addition to any garden as it will grow in shade or sunlight and produces flowers for up to six months of the year.

The Common at West Village buzzes with bees and butterflies thanks to the lush gardens, which provide food and a safe sheltered space for wildlife. The Bottle Trees attracts birds and insects, and the Flame Tree leaves feed the caterpillars of some native butterflies, including the common Aeroplane, Pencilled Blue and Helenita Blue butterflies. 

If you want to recreate your own mini-Queensland ecosystem, to enjoy the birds, bees and butterflies on your own balcony, you’re in luck! Most of these plants can live happily in pots - they just need a little more care and maintenance to thrive.
With everyone spending more time at home, it’s the perfect time to embrace your own personal Gohon no ki. Do your research about which native plants will suit your lifestyle, including the time you have to maintain them. Go for a bright splash of colour with an Ornamental Ginger, or keep it more muted with a Birds Nest Fern. If you keep it native, there’s no right or wrong.
A few ideas to help you get started:

  • Visit your local garden centre and chat to an expert.
  • Take a stroll in your nearest Botanical Gardens and take inspiration from the native displays.
  • Or check out the numerous resources available online, including the West Village Gardener.

Here, West Village resident gardener Amelia shows us how to pot and care for Australian native plant species that attract birds, bees and butterflies.

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