Zen gardens are a great addition to any home. They boost relaxation, add beauty to your space and don’t require too much work or maintenance. And they are perfect for people who crave mindfulness, meditation and deep relaxation in their lives. So if you have a corner in your outdoor space that might be perfect for a Zen garden, here are a few ideas on how to create one yourself:
Study the principles
Zen gardens are strongly focused on improvisation and subjective feel, but if you want to create a space that’s authentic to tradition, there are a few Zen principles to follow. Austerity, simplicity, naturalness, asymmetry, mystery of subtlety, magical/unconventional and stillness are the seven principles that can guide your design and creation of the Zen garden. You don’t have to include all seven ideas, but keep them in mind when drawing your designs or looking for ideas.
Create a meditation element
Zen gardens either focus on gardening with sand or stones or looking at the water to achieve relaxation. The first idea is the most popular one, which includes sandy areas in your garden (or areas covered in pebbles) that can be arranged, rearranged, raked and smoothed out. To make the surface look more natural, use larger rocks and plant beds to create interest points around which you can create your designs in the sand. If you don’t like the idea of sand or rock, you can use water features to help you achieve a meditative state. Reflection pools or small cascades are always a good idea both adults and kids will love.
Add an outdoor eating area
It’s proven many times that we often make a healthier connection with food when we eat outdoors. Well, your Zen garden can be a perfect setting for a nice picnic, breakfast in nature or a late-night snack in the fresh air. And you don’t need much space or overly expensive furniture in order to enjoy an al fresco meal. Use patio pavers to create a smooth area where you can place a small table and low seating in your garden. Paving your seating area is important for safety as well as comfort. Low seating is perfect for mindful food enjoyment as well as traditional tea ceremonies with your family.
Naturalness is one of the guiding principles of Zen, so make sure to add a few green elements to your space. The best thing is that you don’t have to go overboard with plants but simply use them as accents. Bamboo is a traditional plant used in Zen gardens, which is also great for boosting privacy and shade in your outdoor space. When creating landscaping and interest points in your space, you can use moss mounts and decorative grasses which require minimal maintenance. For some vertical interest, pine trees, as well as Japanese maple, are a great idea that will pay off down the line and provide your yard with shade and color.
Light it up subtly
Your Zen garden should be practical for use at all times of the day. There’s nothing better than enjoying a fresh cup of tea in your garden in the morning, but reading in your Zen seating before bed can also be useful for your mental health and much-needed me-time. So make sure to provide your space with subtle lighting that will enhance the space and boost the drama of the different elements. A cheap yet beautiful solution is solar lights that simply stab into the sand or moss and illuminate your space after sundown. Vertical lights that attach to your fence or hang from your trees can also add a new layer of interest. These boost the impression, relaxation and safety yet require minimal installation and expenses.
The only thing that can completely destroy Zen in your garden even after such efforts to create a beautiful space is bugs. Flying and crawling pests can disturb your meditation and distract you from your garden, food or reading. Plus, if you have kids, they can cause painful bites and annoying itching. Make sure to provide your space with natural citronella candles in small lanterns. These both keep the bugs away and provide you with an extra layer of lighting. Burning incense is also a great solution that fits perfectly into your Zen garden. Just be sure to get something that’s not harmful to kids or pets.
Designed with meditation, relaxation and peace in mind, your Zen garden can be your retreat, but also a space that’s beloved and enjoyed by parents, kids and pets—your little private piece of heaven.
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Journalist graduate, travel aficionado, and someone with endless curiosity. Lives in San Francisco, and enjoys reading, cooking, and comedy songs.
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