Skip to main content

Are you looking to create a Zen Garden but not sure where to begin? These unique spaces can be a fantastic way to create a calm and meditative zone in your backyard, but knowing where to start can be incredibly tough.

That is why we have taken a closer look at the best ways to create a Zen Garden in your home.

Before we begin to explore this process, it is important to understand that these should not be undertaken by those homeowners looking for a low-maintenance garden.

While a Zen Garden might look like it is a very simple design, they actually take a lot of time and effort to maintain.

What is a Zen Garden?

Before taking a look at how to create one, it is first important to understand what exactly they are. Originating in Japan, a country whose culture appreciated the raw value of natural beauty.

It is this appreciation that saw Buddhist monks develop Zen Gardens, with these miniature landscapes designed to symbolize specific aspects of nature.

The most important and eye-catching part of any Zen Garden is the white gravel, which is preferred over sand due to it being much easier to work with.

This gravel is then raked into ripples, which are meant to represent the waves of the ocean.

In between these waves sit tall and narrow boulders, which are designed to represent mountains, while smaller rounded rocks represent islands.

Many Zen Gardens will also feature plants, although this is more restrained in the typical style of western designs. Most commonly, these plants will be green shrubs designed to represent island vegetation; however, any of these plants and shrubs will need to be pruned meticulously to keep their shape and style.

A Zen Garden has many distinctive characteristics, and its stark and abstract design is very different from conventional gardens.

The minimalism of this design is very similar to a rock garden, but there are significant differences between them.

What tools and supplies do you need to create a Zen Garden?

When it comes to creating the perfect Zen Garden in your home, then you will need a variety of items, including:

  • White gravel (you will need to calculate how much you will need)
  • An array of different rocks in a collection of shapes and sizes
  • A garden rake, preferably made from steel
  • A wooden Zen Garden rake
  • A shovel
  • A hoe
  • A tape measure
  • String, a string level, and stakes
  • Tamper
  • Landscape fabric
  • Edging stones
  • Work gloves

How do you select and prepare the sight?

When it comes to creating a Zen Garden, finding the right area is vital. You will need a completely flat area in your backyard to do this, and if you do not have one, then you will need to level it out.

Once you have a suitable area, you should mark out a rectangle as big or as small as you like. Of course, you should remember that the larger it is, the more work it will take to maintain and look after.

If you are planning on adding plants to your garden, then you will want to ensure that the area is getting enough sun for any plants that love plenty of light or enough shade for those that do not.

Traditionally, a Zen Garden is also enclosed by walls, helping to increase the sense of seclusion and enhancing meditation. For most homeowners adding walls is either unsightly or too expensive, so you could substitute masonry with lattice fencing instead.

It is often best to add the lattice fencing first before you add any of the gravel or begin placing any of the rocks.

What are the best plants for a Zen Garden?

Finding the right plants for your Zen Garden can be a complicated process, but the idea is to create a calming atmosphere using a palette of restrained colors.

You want to focus on trees and shrubs that are evergreen alongside traditional Japanese plants.

For smaller Zen Gardens, you can also consider adding mosses and ferns, which can thrive in the shade caused by nearby buildings or your lattice fencing.

A step-by-step guide to making a Zen Garden

With all of your equipment gathered and the perfect space prepared, it is now time to start to build your Zen Garden. If you have never done this before, this can seem a daunting process, so we have put together our step-by-step guide to help you.

1) The first thing that you will need to do is to thoroughly clear the entire area. You want the rectangle to be completely free from any signs of debris, including things such as stones, weeds, and plants. You want to ensure that the ground is smooth and there is nothing sticking out of the ground.

2) Once you have removed everything from within the rectangle, the next step is to then remove the top layer of soil with a shovel. You want to make sure that you are removing around two to three inches while keeping the area as flat as possible.

3) With the top layer removed, the next step is to check the level of your Zen Garden. To do this, you should pound stakes into the ground at each end of the length and width of the rectangle. Then, tie a string between each one and use your string level to identify how flat your surface really is.

4) The string level will identify areas that are higher or lower than the rest. When you have this insight, you will then be able to use your steel garden rake to carefully go over each area and remove any uneven areas.

5) When you are confident that your new Zen Garden is as level as possible, the next step of the process is to tamp down the soil. This is the process of pounding down the soil so that it is compact.

6) You should then create a stone edge along the entire siding of your lattice fencing. This will help to create a clear border and retain all of the white gravel, preventing it from spilling out. There is a wide array of stones you can use, but cobblestone is one of the best, thanks to its aesthetics and durability.

7) With your border installed, the next step in building the perfect Zen Garden is to dig the spaces where you will place your rocks. This arrangement is entirely down to you, but when choosing the location, you should try to keep in mind how these mountains and islands occur naturally; for example, do not place them in a straight line or symmetrically. During this stage, you should also dig any of the holes for your plants.

8) The next step is to install those rocks and plants into the required positions. For the tall, narrow rocks, you want to ensure that you are burying as much of the body as possible so only the tip is visible, as this will create a far more realistic and natural aesthetic.

9) You will then need to place landscape fabric over the soil, cutting it in the required position to place it over your rocks and plants. This is essential to prevent dirt and other weeds from working their way upwards and destroying the visuals of your Zen Garden.

10) Finally, you need to add your white gravel. You should add a few inches over the surface of your garden. Spread this out using the hoe so that it is evenly distributed and then use your wooden Zen Garden rake to create beautiful ripples and swirls in it. The idea is to then rake these designs back in once the elements have disturbed the original ones.

Final Thoughts

Adding a Zen Garden to your home can be a wonderful addition, helping to create a calming and relaxing escape from the hustle and bustle of modern life. If you are thinking of adding a garden to your property but are not sure where to begin, get in touch with our team, who will be happy to help you.