For many people, their garden is a refuge from the outside world, where they can unwind after a hard day’s work. Or in recent times, escape from working inside their homes all day.
Some people create a dedicated space for quiet contemplation, which is often referred to as a ‘Zen garden’. These were originally developed by Japanese Buddhist monks as places for meditation, but aspects of Zen design can be incorporated into any home landscape.
A Zen garden, is pretty much a minimalist dry landscape comprised of natural elements of rock, gravel, sand and wood, with very few plants and no water. Man-made components include bridges, statuary and stone lanterns, with an enclosing wall or fence to separate the space from the outside world. Since the focus is on hardscaping, there is little seasonal change and the garden has year-round appeal.
A Zen garden should be quiet, private and beautiful. Here are some of the primary features which characterize a traditional Zen garden.
Rocks: These are one of the most important components of Japanese design, as they represent the human desire for enduring elements in nature. Choosing and siting larger rocks is crucial to a cohesive Zen design. Larger rocks, which act as sculptural elements, should be installed first since they are the heaviest material and are the primary focus.
Gravel: Gravel is an integral part of Zen gardens, with raked patterns having symbolic meaning. Though sand can be used, gravel is more durable and easier to maintain. Use finely crushed gravel, pea gravel or small smooth pebbles which will be easy to rake into patterns. Light neutral colors of white, cream or grey are most typically used. A straight-line design can invoke serenity, leading the eye through the landscape or simulating a frozen winter scene.
Screening: To create a secluded garden room, enclose the area with a wall, fencing, bamboo screening, lattice panels or formal hedging.
Pathway: A pathway can lead visitors into the garden or be placed through the gravel area to make it more accessible to maintain. Choosing materials that will contrast with the larger rocks and gravel, such as darker colored stepping stones is better and the placement of the pathway should be carefully situated as part of the overall design.
Seating: Have a stone bench or comfortable chair in a spot where you can most enjoy the garden.
Water: the sound of moving water can create a more soothing environment that is conducive to meditation. A trickling Asian-style fountain or waterfall will help drown out urban noise.
Lighting: is often an overlooked aspect of home landscaping but adds so much aesthetic appeal and allows for time spent outdoors during the evenings. For a peaceful affect – Illuminate pathways, statuary, or up light trees.
Plants: although Zen gardens typically use few plants, you can tailor this aspect to your own tastes and style. The type of plants used in Zen gardens tend to be low and creeping to complement rather than overwhelm the hardscaping. Flowers are sparse or non-existent, while foliage should be in neutral shades of green to evoke serenity and harmony.
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