How To Create a Zen Garden in Your Backyard

Creating a small Zen Garden at home dramatically improves the physical landscape of your yard. But that’s not even half of it.

What is of much greater importance is that the innately profound tranquility that Zen Gardens offer will provide you with a perfect place to ease your mind, destroy the stress and rise above all things that bother the calmness of our minds.

Hence, the mental landscape of your garden will be even more dramatically changed, and for the better and better alone.

Arranged according to ancient Eastern principles that have evolved over the centuries, Zen Gardens, similarly to the bonsai, represent nature in miniature. Mastering this seemingly elusive art is not difficult and creating your very own Zen Garden at the heart of the city, where usually we are lacking much in terms of peacefulness, will make all the difference in your life.

Just picture it — switching from the crowded streets of the City (of London) to a serene Zen Garden at your backyard. Priceless. So keep reading to see how easy this could be achieved.

What You Need to Build the Perfect Zen Garden

First of all, you have to figure out how much space you can afford for the Zen Garden in your backyard. Always be mindful that a Zen Garden represents a much bigger natural landscape in miniature. It’s like brining nature’s serenity to our homes.

Although space is obviously important, I can’t stress enough that a Zen Garden, no matter its size, will essentially incorporate the same elements.

If you are after a “rock Zen Garden”…

…sand is the basic element that’s indispensable to its creation. A rock Zen Garden must truthfully represent the feeling that mountains and dry river beds produce.

Rake the sand with gentle strokes and arrange some stones on random places. Although the ancient Japanese masters have used a certain number of stones — 15 — only fourteen of which can be seen at any given time, you could be a bit more liberal and use your imagination to create something pioneering and beautiful.

But always keep in mind your ultimate goal. The karesansui (枯山水), as the rock garden is known in Japanese, is meant to be a picturesque view of mountains and rivers, so arrange in such a way as to see exactly that when you look at your Japanese Rock Garden. If you have any doubts about it or regarding the plants you are to plant in your garden, better consult with the boys at Gardener Oxford, they will give you the right advice.

Moss holds a special place in Japanese culture…

Really suitable to what the good people of Japan enjoy in terms of climate, moss has become the basis of certain types of Zen Gardens.The Saihō-ji temple (西芳寺) in Kyoto is a prime example.

Moss goes really well with small stones scattered around the place. If we ignore the fact that these stones closely resemble the figures of Go, which adds a bit of “Japaneseness” to your garden, still you can easily achieve a desirable “chessboard effect” with it.

Combining it with small bodies of water is also an excellent idea and a foundation on which many landscape Eastern gardens, both Chinese and Japanese, are based.

Since any Zen Garden’s primary function is to produce an atmosphere of tranquility…

… the one in your yard doesn’t have to be any different. Heeding the philosophical aesthetics of Buddhism, it’s worth underlining that the importance doesn’t hide in the size, but in the meaning the sand, the water and the stones signify for your garden and how they help you go deep into Zen state of mind.

So if you are short on space, worry not. A small body of water is absolutely good enough and serving its purpose to perfection. That’s because Eastern gardens and especially Japanese ones follow the idea that less is more and that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

That’s to say, in practical terms, that you can simply have a small pond and a few stones on some green moss in a small space at the back of your yard. But if done right, that’s a Zen Garden as good as any other in the world, especially if it helps you elevate your mind to a higher place.

My friend Poppy already told you about the nitty-gritty of moss growing (and truth be told, it isn’t that difficult either), but in a nutshell — provide it with at least partial shade (proper shade is advisable), enough moisture and high levels of humidity.

Moss in Zen Gardens also combines extremely well with virtually all Zen statues. A beautiful and symbolically-rich Buddhist figure covered in moss is a stunning thing adding much to your garden and the atmosphere of calmness and thoughtfulness you wish to create.

Then you can add a few plants or a bridge to complete the picture. Bamboo is an obvious choice. You can create a natural fence with it and that adds another nuance to your Zen Garden.

Ferns is another plant that every Zen Garden will do well to incorporate, as well as the water iris and the Japanese apricot tree. Place them well, and you would complete a picture of perfect stillness, peacefulness and sereneness. And, at the end of the day, that’s the goal, isn’t it?

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