When it comes to our daily routine, most of us try really hard to get everything done and build the kind of life we strive for. And that usually entails finishing all the work in an appropriate time frame, keeping our social and family life together, and getting enough alone time to recharge for things to come. Throughout the years I have learned that prioritizing this alone time is actually not being selfish, but working to maintain the best version of yourself for all other endeavors.
This is where a Zen garden comes into play. It sounds like an abrupt transition from talking about life philosophies, but that is exactly what a Zen garden is. A reflection on what your true self should be. By cultivating and maintaining its orderly aesthetics, you get the feeling of doing the same with your mind. So, what is it exactly that makes a Zen garden so good for you? Keep reading, and you just might find out that this kind of gardening is perfect for you.
What your garden needs first, is to set the boundaries. You need to seclude it from the rest of the outside world, and you can do that with bamboo fences or other screens that will keep the exterior distractions away. A Zen garden is a meditative space. Then, you section off an area for a bed that will be filled with fine sand or gravel. I prefer sand since it works better for the next step.
Creating a microcosm of your own
The whole idea behind Zen garden’s unique aesthetic is to create a landscape on a small scale. And how is that achieved?
- Sand represents rivers – by raking it, you create the illusion of motion, of water flowing in a certain direction
- Rocks represent land – specking your sand bed with boulders and rocks, you build a terrain of mountains and hills around which the rivers flow
- Plants represent forests – I like to add miniature bonsai trees and small, subtle bushes that represent trees
The art of order
The importance of having all these elements is to create a nature-inspired haven that reflects minimalism and discipline. The rocks need to be evenly spaced, to guide the eye along naturally. The lines you rake in the sand should be clear and flowing, and keep just enough greenery to make it look lively, but not too cluttered. Achieving the Zen garden that suits you takes time, and my advice to you is to read a few pages on Zen gardening philosophy, and above all else, to be patient, yet determined.
For those of you who like to have their gardens decorated, fret not. Zen gardening also implements ponds, oriental stone lanterns, Buddha statues and shrine-like decorations. My own garden seemed lacking until I added a narrow pathway of flat stone blocks that lead up to a small pond. Some blogs advise getting Koi fish (highly sought-after type, characteristic for Japanese gardens), but they can get pricey, and require special ponds.
A word on materials
Even though there is plenty of advice on where and what to get for an authentic Zen garden, here are some of my preferences:
- The size of gravel sand is 8-10mm, and limestone chippings work wonderfully
- Mossy rocks and boulders will always look better, like a tiny forest adorning a mountain
- Bamboo is your go-to, as a reminder to be flexible but firmly rooted, which is why it’s loved and respected
Don’t risk frustration
To leave you one last thought: with Zen gardens, you create an oasis for the mind and soul. And it’s no easy feat. When I was starting off myself, there was no way to know just how much potential my yard had, until I consulted some outside help. Companies like MUSA Landscape Design, Sydney-based gardening experts, have a reputation for offering great advice on how to best utilize your garden space. The point is to enjoy yourself, and if getting an outside opinion saves you a lot of time and frustration, do it; you can learn much more than on your own.
As mentioned, the idea behind a Zen garden is that it’s more than just aesthetics. It’s there to be used as a safe space, an oasis in a rushed everyday life. And by knowing what each garden element is meant to represent, you will know better how you want to organize the whole space. Zen gardens require mindfulness and dedication to reach their full potential, and if you decide to take up such an endeavor, the results will return to you tenfold.