A Zen garden is a perfect place to find your inner peace and release the stress from your daily life. They’re a great place to meditate, boost feelings of calm, and are full of your favorite plants and flowers. The best part is that you don’t need much space to cultivate more peace and calm in your life. Whether you have a huge yard or a small corner of a room to offer, we’ll show you how to make a Zen garden you’re sure to love.
What is a Zen Garden?
These Japanese rock gardens are also called dry landscape gardens. In simplest terms, Zen gardens are designed to aid meditation. They were first made at Zen Buddhist temples, and were created with the intent of imitating nature in a location where meditation takes place. These spaces help people to understand the true meaning of life and find peace within themselves.
What Does a Zen Garden Look Like?
You’ll recognize Zen gardens when you see them because they’re created using rocks, gravel, and sand. Some may offer a few smaller bushes, or feature a water fountain. Smaller, desktop Zen gardens house sand with decorative colors and designs. Maybe a few stones and a plant or two. Each feature offers symbolic meaning and makes the garden unique.
The most important features found in a Zen garden include:
Sand and Gravel
While many zen gardens feature sand, which is easy to rake and move from one place to another, gravel is easier to sustain over a long period of time. Gravel is slightly heavier than sand, allowing it to withstand the wind and rain. Both symbolize water, which represents distance, purity, and emptiness.
Miniature gardens generally incorporate sand and tiny figurines, and often include small wood rakes for creating designs into the sand.
Rocks and Stones
Arrangements made with stones symbolize islands, mountains, waterfalls, and rivers. You can also use stones to represent things like boats, or animals such as turtles. They’re easy to group together to create scenes full of meaning for you. Display the stones in an arrangement that speaks to you, and use your creativity.
Many Zen gardens involve raking the sand or gravel into patterns that symbolize water waves. The practice of raking requires concentration to create perfect lines, and creativity to create challenging, new patterns. It’s very meditative in practice.
Some miniature gardens may also include incense and a burner to hold it in place. They may also have Buddha statues, or small plants and trees. Some might also include smaller versions of things you’d find in a full-sized Japanese landscape, such as smooth stones, greenery, or figurines, only on a more manageable scale.
Placing healing crystals, such as clear quartz, rose quartz, amethyst, citrine, and black tourmaline in a Zen garden may also promote healing energy. Each crystal aids the user in a specific way, either removing negative energy or promoting positive feelings like balance, protection, joy, energy, and spirituality.
What are the Benefits of a Zen Garden?
The many benefits of a zen garden extend to you based on how you use the space. Large and miniature desktop gardens are great for raking designs into the sand or gravel and can be used for meditation, both of which offer benefits. Vital benefits from having your own zen garden include:
They Boost Your Well-Being
Peaceful gardens like this are common in Japan, but in America, finding a peaceful place to retreat after a long, hard day is hard to come by. With a zen garden nearby, you can clear out your mind and meditate in nature for a few moments before returning back to your daily life and duties.
The repetitive movements you perform in a zen garden by raking the sand into designs is also said to relieve stress and anxiety in your life by helping you escape when you need it. After you rake for a few minutes, you may notice yourself instantly relaxing.
They Fit Anywhere
The best part about Zen gardens is that you don’t need a huge space to find your inner peace. Sure, there are huge gardens you can walk through that would take up your entire yard space. However, mini versions—also called desktop Zen gardens—are easy to keep anywhere in a home or office.
Keep a mini version on your desk at work for when you need a break. Alternatively, deck out a small corner of any room in your house to stimulate your creativity. As long there’s enough space for you to sit comfortably, you can enjoy a meditative Zen garden.
They Look Great
Zen gardens are beautiful! Japanese concepts that influence these gardens encourage asymmetrical balance and simplicity, which adds a layer of grace and beauty to any space. No matter what type of décor preferences you have, there’s an aesthetic for everyone. Design yours to suit your personal preferences, and add in details that fit your personality for the most enjoyment.
Zen gardens also:
- Stimulate creativity
- Boost focus
- Increase discipline
- Promote stress-relief
- Boost relaxation
- Adds beauty to your home or workplace
- Enhances the flow of your décor
They’re Great Places to Meditate
Meditation offers tons of benefits of its own, such as reducing stress and enhancing your happiness, and zen gardens were designed as places to boost your meditative practice. They can help you gain perspective while you practice breathing and attempt to empty all the thoughts from your mind.
Meditation also boosts creativity, so you may notice you have more ideas. Zen gardens can help you solve problems, stay in the moment, notice when you need a break from the real world, and allow new ideas to flow freely. Having a place to take a break can further aid your self-control, allowing you to recognize your inner needs and take care of yourself accordingly.
How to Make a Zen Garden in Any Space
You don’t need much to start your own zen garden at home other than a creative mind. Follow these step-by-step instructions to learn how to create one in any space.
Step 1: Select a Size
How much space do you have to work with? A large Zen garden can expand across your entire backyard, or a miniature version will sit on your desk. If you want a backyard garden, flatten out a 12 x 18-foot section of land. Smaller spaces will require less work to maintain, however. They’re commonly rectangular regardless of size.
Step 2: Choose Features
Select the type of features you want to include in your Zen garden, such as gravel or sand, stones, and plants or figurines. Then think about the details. What color gravel do you want? Will you use rocks in varying sizes and shapes? Do you include a rake, and if so, is it wood or steel? The choice is yours, so think outside the box and make sure you enjoy everything you add to your garden.
If you include plants, make sure you know whether you’re growing shade-loving or sun-loving plants. That way you can incorporate sunlight to suit their needs. The most common plants people add to a Zen garden include:
- Crimson Queen Japanese maple
- Creeping thyme
- Corkscrew rush
- Chinese lanterns
- Pagoda Dogwood
- Mondo grass
- Creeping junipers
- Japanese forest grass
- Chinese junipers
- Silk tree
- Miniature pines
- Umbrella pine
- Snow Fountains weeping cherry
You’ll also need the following supplies:
- Rake – If you want, choose the type and size of rake you prefer.
- Sand or gravel – white gravel is an ideal choice for many people.
- Rocks, varying in size and shape as you see fit.
- Edging stones – line the gravel or sand into place.
- Landscape fabric – to keep the rocks from molding into the dirt.
- A shovel or hoe for planting the garden.
- Tape measure
- Work gloves
Step 3: Set Up the Garden
Do you want to build a huge outdoor Zen garden to extend your living space out into nature? If so, you’ll need to plan ahead. After all, large stones and landscaping require significant planning. Stones are heavy to move around by yourself, while perfect spots for plants and statues need to be pre-mapped out to ensure they’re in the right locations.
Tabletop versions take much less time to put together. You can start out with a decorative plate, bowl, or dish, sand in your color of choice, and river stones. Each of these items can be found at a craft store, and you can set them together in a number of inventive ways in minutes.
Begin by filling the bowl with sand and begin arranging your features how you see fit. Grab a toothpick and draw in some ripples or lines. There are tons of ways to create your own DIY mini zen garden.
Home Guides offers step-by-step instructions that can help when building a full-scale Zen garden at home.
A Final Thought
Miniature Zen gardens are great even if you have a tiny space or only a desktop to offer, and they can greatly increase your wellbeing. They also make great gifts for friends or anyone going through a tough time. Try it out to see how you like it, then start planning out your full-scale garden when you have time for a larger landscaping project. The options are endless!