Add a little Peace and Tranquility to your Garden Space-Create a Japanese Zen Garden

Zen-rock-garden-300x228 in Add a little Peace and Tranquility to your Garden Space-Create a Japanese Zen Garden and gardeningtipsEveryone has had a day where nothing has gone right.  You were late for work, the kids forgot their lunch, and your husband just informed you that his boss was coming for dinner.  This description describes many peoples’ lives and how they handle this stress. This is one of the factors that determine their health and happiness.  One way of dealing with this stress is to just rush through ones day and hope for the best.  Another more constructive and healthy way is through the creation of a Japanese Zen garden.

This type of garden can be created for a desk or tabletop along with a more traditional type of design that is actually done in one’s garden space.  All Japanese Zen gardens are made up of sand, rocks, water, and ornaments.  These ornaments include bamboo fencing, lanterns, or water basins called tsukubai, along with natural plants.

The ideas for Japanese Zen gardens come from the symbolism used in both Buddhism and Shinto beliefs.  Principles behind this type of gardening consist of reduced scale, symbolization, and borrowed view.

Reduced scale is defined as mimicking a famous scene or place in a small, confined space.  Sand, stones and gravel are used to create mountain views and rivers in microscale.

Symbolization, on the other hand, is defined as using something that represents something else.  In Japanese Zen gardening, sand and/or gravel is used to symbolize rivers when raked while stones and/or rocks stacked are used to represent islands.

The last principle utilized in Japanese Zen gardening is borrowed view or shakkei.  This incorporates the existing scenery and plants into the Japanese Zen garden landscape.

Japanese Zen gardens come in five different styles.  This includes the waterless and sand garden known as Karesansui, tea gardens known as Cha Niwa or Roji, courtyard gardens or Tsubo Niwa and two types of strolling gardens known as Tsukiyama and Kaiyu-Shikien.

The waterless and sand gardens or Karesansui are very well known.  This design does not depend on plant life but instead utilizes moss and raked gravel to symbolize streaming water.  Rocks and stones are also grouped together in this design.

Tea gardens known as Cha Niwa or Roji are gardens that were designed as a passage to the teahouse.  This guided the person from the outside realm to the indoor realm of the teahouse where the tea ceremony is performed.  This passage was a small enclosed garden space that incorporated a lantern or toro, crouching water basin or tsukubai, stepping-stones or tobiishi and a waiting place or muchi-ai.  The purpose of this passage was to create a calming atmosphere for the person before they entered the teahouse.

Courtyard gardens or Tsubo Niwa are based on the Japanese measurement called tsubo.  A tsubo is equal to 3.3 square meters.  This type of small garden utilizes the same gardening principles as the tea garden except it uses more shade loving plants.  The courtyard garden style is suited to rooftop or terrace gardens.

The two types of strolling gardens are typically large garden spaces.  The Tsukiyama style is one where the gardener creates an imaginary landscape or a scaled down version of a famous landscape.  On the other hand, the Kaiyu-Shikien style creates a pleasure garden the size of many public parks.

The style of Japanese Zen garden you choose will depend on time, money, and space.  Many of these designs are based on small areas of land between the house and garage or even an alley space.  Apartment dwellers can use the balcony, rooftop or a terrace for their garden space.

A simple Japanese Zen garden can be constructed using an old sand box, damp sand, stones, and hand tools such as a hand rake.  Fill the old sand box with sand and gradually dampen the sand with a misting system or drip line.  After the sand is evenly moist, it is time to begin the designing phase.

This type of garden can be ever changing and is designed to be handled continuously.  Place the stone where your mind and soul lead you.  The stones can represent islands in a stream.  Once the stones are placed, begin to create the water feature by raking the sand so that it looks like flowing or rippling water.  Continue to play with the design until you find one that appeals to you.

One can create an office version of this by simply placing sand in a shallow container.  Mist the sand and arrange stones in the sand.  Pattern the sand as you would in the above project.  Continue designing until the mind is calm and you are relaxed.

Japanese Zen gardening, whether done in the garden or on an office desk, is a great way of freeing ones mind from everyday stress.  It can also be a great way of getting those creative juices flowing when the mind has dammed up the thought process.  Just keep in mind that Japanese Zen gardening is not so much about plants and hardscape, but instead the journey that brought one here.

Mindy McIntosh-Shetter has been an Agricultural Science educator, and is a horticulture and/or environmental blogger who earned a degree from Purdue University in Agriculture Education with a minor in biology, and natural resources. Presently she is finishing up her Masters in Environmental Education and Urban Planning for the University of Louisville while working on her own agriculture/environmental blog.

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