Zen Garden: Components, Principles, and How to Make it?

Al Ardh Alkhadra > Blog > Gardening > Zen Garden: Components, Principles, and How to Make it?

zen garden

If you are looking to make a meditative space in your landscape, then Zen Garden is one of the choices for you.

Making a Zen Garden is a great way to use your landscape.

While many people often exploit the color theory of the garden, taking advantage of the calming effect of “cool” colors like blue and lavender can help to achieve the same purpose.

Moreover, the help of a more elaborate design for enjoying serenity in the backyard is a great way to make use of this type of garden.

If you are a gardener who idolizes nature and likes to interpret the world symbolically then you are a good candidate for Zen Garden.

However, if you are a lover of low-maintainance landscaping then you should think twice before installing such a design.

While looking at the design, you might think of it as a simple garden, however, there is a lot of work, both to make and maintain it.

Keep on reading to learn more about it.

Zen Garden

Japan is a mountainous nation of islands and its natural setting is awe-inspiring and its people love the raw beauty of nature that surrounds them.

It is this appreciation that accounts for the innovation of the Zen Garden.

Developed by Buddhist monks in ancient Japan along with some Chinese influence, Zen Garden often dubs “miniature landscapes” as their components symbolize aspects of nature.

One of the notable aspects of this garden is white gravel which is also easy to work with than sand.

zen garden 1

Moreover, you can also create ripples that represent ocean waves and tall, narrow boulders that jut out vertically represents mountains.

Meanwhile, the shorter, more rounded rocks or the flat ones in the “sea of sand” represent islands.

Furthermore, plants are also a part of nature and thus, have a place in this design.

Though, their uses are restrained by Western standards.

However, you can still plant short, green plants to represent vegetation and the architectural plant can serve as accents.

You will need to prune any type of trees or shrubs. In fact, for shrub topiaries, you will have to prune them in such a way that represents islands.

Characteristics of a Zen Garden

You can characterize a zen garden in different ways.

Because of their start, artistic quality, they are quite abstract than an English Garden.

Moreover, along the same lines, you can consider them minimalistic.

The symbolic use of raked gravel to represent water leads to the characterization of being “dry landscapes”.


The reliance on rocks leads to refer to them as “Japanese Rock Gardens”, though the intent from meditation behind making them differs from that of rock gardens.

As the design of a Zen Garden evolved over the course of centuries, it is pointless to try to eccentric a single authentic set of components for it.

In most cases, gardens want to create a topic that lives in lands far away from the East to incorporate enough of its classic components in their construction to suggest a Zen Garden.

Tools and Supplies you will Need

Some of the tools ad supplies you will need to make a zen garden of your own are:

  • White gravel
  • rocks in a number of different sizes and shapes
  • steel garden rake
  • wooden zen rake
  • shovel
  • hoe
  • tape measure
  • string, string level, and stakes
  • tamper
  • landscape fabric
  • edging stones
  • back brace, work gloves

Now, let’s discuss the steps you will need to take to make your own Zen Garden.

Site Selection and Preparation for Zen Garden

In order to create a zen garden, select a lat area in your backyard and mark out a rectangular portion.

However, the size can vary: on a small property a 12×18 foot rectangle may be appropriate.

You can also reduce the workload by settling for a smaller space.

In case you intend to grow plants in your garden, then make sure that their sunlight requirements factor into your site.

Therefore, it is important to make a plan, and decide whether you will be growing sun-loving or shade-loving plants and locate your meditative space accordingly.

zen garden 3

A traditional Zen Garden is a walled-in space.

The seclusions attain the conductive meditation, however, today it is often undesirable or unaffordable to build a masonry wall for meditative space.

You can substitute it with a lattice fence to achieve inexpensive privacy.

Consider this a separate project for your Zen Garden, however, make sure to include a wide gate to make it easy to bring in the supplies.

Zen Garden Plants

Some of the best Zen Garden plants are:

Creeping thyme, moss, mondo grass and lilyturf, deutzia, corkscrew rush, Chinese lanterns, ferns, and Japanese forest grass.

zen garden 2

Moreover, you can plant pachysandra, creeping junipers, horsetail in containers, yews, Chinese junipers, evergreen azaleas, bamboo, miniature pines, and silk tree.

Some other options for your Zen Garden are:

  • Pagoda dogwood
  • crimson queen Japanese maple
  • snow fountains weeping cherry
  • umbrella pine

Steps to Take in your Garden

Now let’s learn about the steps you will need to take to make your Zen Garden:

Step 1

Clear the rectangular area you have selected completely of anything sticking up out of the ground.

It includes plants, weeds, stones, shrubs, etc.

Step 2

With the help of a shovel, remove the top layer at least a few inches of the existing soil.

Step 3

Make sure to check for the level of pounding stakes into the ground end-to-end.

Moreover, it is important to check both lengthwise and widthwise within your rectangle.

Tie the string between them, and make use of your string level.

Step 4

Then with the help of the steel garden rake, rake out uneven spots.

Step 5

Tamp down the soil.

making it

Step 6

Run some edging along the lattice fence. Cobblestone is a good choice on the other hand.

Moreover, this will help to retain the white gravel.

Step 7

To represent the mountains or islands in your garden, dig holes for them. The arrangement is subjective, but make sure to consider these features in nature and arrange the rocks accordingly.

They do not need to be in symmetrical patterns, circles, straight lines, etc. Also, dig holes for any plant you want to grow.

Step 8

Install the rocks and plants in their more, and much of the length of those tall, narrow rocks should be under the ground.

This tip-of-the-iceberg placement will make them more natural-looking.

Step 9

Lay the landscape fabric over the soil, make sure to place cuts in order to accommodate rocks and plants.

Step 10

Apply a few inches of gravel and spread it with a hoe to distribute it evenly.

You can also rake ripples or swirls in with the wooden Zen rake.

Part of the zen garden maintenance is to rake these designs back into the gravel after you disturb the elements.

Guiding Principles of a Zen Garden

In order to make a zen garden, you have to structure them around seven guiding principles.

These are:

  1. Austerity (Koko),
  2. Simplicity (Kanso),
  3. Naturalness (Shinzen),
  4. Asymmetry (Fukinsei)
  5. Mystery or Subtlety (Yugen),
  6. Magical or Unconventional (Datsuzoku)
  7. Stillness (Seijaku).

Your Zen garden should promote most of the above concepts.

Maintaining a Zen Garden

Despite its appearance, a Zen Garden needs a regular maintainer to look its best.

Moreover, caring for this type of garden is an important part of the meditative process.

Rake Gravel: It is important to regularly rake the gravel to help keep the patterns crisp and the gravel looking fresh.

Pick up the Leaves: Make sure to keep your garden clean.

Regularly pick out or rake fallen leaves from the gravel and clean up any loose debris around stones and statuary.

Weed: It is important to make sure that you keep the gravel and planting area free of weeds.

This will be more of a regular task during the summers when weeds tend to be more prolific, with little or no weeding important during colder months.

Prune: Keep your plants up to date by pruning them.

Make sure to keep the shrubs shear or shape them into topiaries.


Moreover, cut out dead branches or growth and remove wilting flowers. Trim creeping groundcovers from the gravel area as well.

Lighting: Lighting adds aesthetic effect and allows you to enjoy the time. Make sure to illuminate pathways, statuary, or uplight trees.

Make it Inviting: Choos the aspects of your Zen Garden that make you happy and you can also tailor the garden to suit your tastes.

Create a space that will look forward to spending time in.

Keep It Simple: A Zen space should be simple and uncluttered, which will represent the feeling of calm.

Use a muted color scheme to relax the mind and create a soothing environment.

The TakeAway

For a number of people ou there, their yard is a refuge from the outside world and hectic routines where they can unwind after a hard day at a job. This concept can expand when you create a dedicated space for quiet contemplation. Zen gardens can help you do so and you can incorporate the aspects of it into any home landscape.

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