Zen Garden Escape

Everyone needs a place in their home that they can call their own. A place to retreat, contemplate, relax, or just be alone. It’s a place that exudes a sense of calm in an otherwise hectic life. In my house that place of refuge is in my Zen garden.

Otherwise known as “karesansui” or “dry garden”, this is a landscaping feature commonly found in homes, temples, and many public places in Japan. It wasn’t until the 1930’s that the western cultures began to understand the principles of the Zen garden and its application was used in various architecture, landscaping and art forms.

No matter what the form, the results should be the same. To create a harmonious, meditative respite using feng shui and other principles that reflect an alignment with nature.

Steps to creating your own Zen garden:

Set aside an area away from the road or other distractions and decide on a size and shape. It can be a large area incorporating walking paths and waterfalls or a simple rectangle. Create a barrier to contain your rock that may include using railroad ties or 2 x 4’s, stone or brick, and stretch out a base of landscape fabric to prevent weeds. You don’t want to be distracted by thoughts of weed pulling or fertilizing.

Fill with sand, gravel, crushed rock, or river rock to a depth of at least 2″ and level off.

Start adding features to your garden; taking time to consider different textures, shapes, colors or items that have particular meaning for you. Add sparingly, however, a Zen garden should never appear cluttered. This is a part of your life that should reflect simplicity and calm. Choose shades of green that symbolizes the heart of summer in various shapes and designs of evergreens. Also consider adding plants that have a presence in all the seasons. The Japanese Maple is a striking summer plant, but also boasts ornamental fall foliage. Interesting rocks or evergreen moss shine in the winter.

Select a focal point that may include a pine tree, an essential part of a Japanese garden. Bamboo also works well as a barrier.

Choose stones to represent mountains and submerge them slightly in sand or gravel. Traditional Zen gardens have 5 groups of 3 stones, but you should do whatever works for you. These mountains or islands symbolize good health and longevity and are an important component of any dry garden.

A water element conveys a sense of calm and cool and represents the passing of time. It can be as simple as a small pond, bird bath, or in a dry garden takes on a solid form. Rake your sand and gravel in wavy rows to symbolize gentle rippling water. Have fun experimenting with new shapes and patterns that feel right.

Subtle lighting or a small bridge connecting various areas may also be added. Complete your garden by adding a comfortable seating or meditation area.