There is nothing more mind and body relaxing than spending some time in a Zen garden. Unlike what many people think, Zen gardens are not the artistic creation of expert designers. On the contrary, you can now have your own peaceful refuge and add variety to a green landscape that infuses serenity and calm.
Japanese gardens used to be created only for the elite of Japan’s ruling class to be able to meditate and find peace in the midst of the country’s war and strife. Over time, Japanese gardens earned a respected place in the Japanese culture and transformed into a way of life. No wonder they quickly became an oasis to the western stressful lifestyles and places that provided a chance to unwind and find inspiration.
The Basics of a Zen Garden
There are 2 types of Zen gardens, a rock garden, and a moss garden. The first one offers an element of sand and you will find no water element in it as it is specifically designed to depict a mountainous scene run across by a river. The river is symbolized by sand gravel raked into a particular pattern and the mountains are reflected in the use of rocks, carefully placed on the sand.
The moss garden is very popular in rainy and humid climates. Contrary to what you may think, moss doesn’t require much water to flourish, which is why you can easily incorporate it into your personalized Zen garden. What is distinguishing among moss gardens is that they establish a balanced and soft feel, as a means to soothe and comfort a burdened body and mind.
TIP: A Zen garden should be reflecting the calm that speaks to YOU. That’s the bottom line for creating one. So, whether you go for a moss or rock garden or even decide to have a pond garden instead, the whole point is to feel at peace when there…it is all about Zen.
Stay Loyal to the culture of a Zen garden
Most preconceived notions as per what a Zen garden should look like derive from the Chinese culture. These cliché ideas include the use of bridges crossing small streams and red hanging flowers. However, you will not find bright or any flashy colors in a traditional Japanese garden, rather than monochromatic greens. There is a perfectly reasonable explanation to that. The point of having a Zen garden is to help you during your journey towards Zen. Flowers with too flashy colors can only distract you from finding your inner balance, meditate and feel at peace inside. So, you can have colorful flowers and plants; just not too bright. Moreover, flowers should highlight the prevailing greens of the garden, not overshadow them.
Always remember: Everything in a Zen garden is a symbol and every little bit and piece of the garden is meant to serve a purpose, towards creating Zen.
Simplicity is the Key
When creating a Zen garden you are not seeking the best, most glamorous, and biggest. A Zen garden is a testament to purpose and simplicity. Therefore, keep it simple and not too big. That’s the only way to achieving your goal.
How to do that?
Start by using materials that promote simplicity and boost the garden’s meaningful design, like a bamboo fence to act as your garden’s perimeter. In addition, you can incorporate small, winding, stone pathways going past concrete icons or statues that speak to your Zen’s goal. The fact that you are creating a winding stone path in your garden shows, according to the Japanese beliefs, that you are respecting your past while anticipating what they future has for you at the same time. A noble way to look at life indeed.
Like previously mentioned, there is no reason to have lots of different flowers into the garden. It’s best to stick with just a couple of crawling or mossy plants to keep the lines of the garden simple and save yourself from maintenance issues. Look at it from another angle; if your mind wanders in a space bursting with plant life, it won’t be able to unclutter easily. In a Zen garden crafted with simplicity of design in mind, things are much easier for you to relax and seek balance and peace.
Let’s craft a Zen garden to place on your desk, shall we?
1. Decide the dimensions of your Zen garden, based on the space available.
2. Create a mold that will accommodate the gravel and/or sand that will also keep your garden looking sharp.
3. For a large Zen garden, you can use 2 x 4 (inches) pieces of oil railroad tiles, lumber, or any other wood. For a desktop garden just cut enough wood to make a container.
4. Glue/Screw/Nail your form together.
5. Varnish or paint the wood to decorate it.
6. Place black plastic (or any other weed retainer) before setting the mold. Keep in mind that cleanliness is one of the characteristic features that make Zen gardens so appealing, so keeping weeds away from the garden is a huge must.
7. Fill with gravel or sand and spread evenly. Note: You can get sand for small desktop gardens at an aquarium supply store or a pet shop; larger outdoor Zen gardens can be filled with gravel or sand from a local rock shop, landscaping supply company, or quarry.
8. Set a visually stimulating theme by placing the features you have selected in the garden. You can also use mossy logs with impressive textures, colors, or shapes, among others. Generally, Zen gardens include natural items made of vegetation, rock, and wood. However, you may also add statues or anything else you feel relaxed by. Remember: A Zen garden is meant to inspire serenity and be simple and peaceful, not clutter.
9. Place the selected items off-center and submerge them a bit to get superb results.
10. Rake the gravel or sand in long, curving strokes that will be your water ripples representations. Use your imagination to create patterns of your likes to accentuate your Zen garden! After all, if you don’t like them or want something else, you can always re-do the patterns!
Don’t feel frustrated if you don’t do this work of art right from the first time. Stay focused on your goal, and your personal Zen refuge will bring you the peace of mind you are looking for.