Garden Green

Zen Gardens

Zen gardens, often called Japanese gardens, consist of sand, stones, plants and water and were originally found in Zen monasteries. Now, these gardens have gained in popularity and can be recreated in your backyard.

Zen gardens have eight main elements, each with their own purpose. These elements are bridges, islands, flowers or plants, sand, stones, trees, water and waterfalls.

Bridges, made of stone or wood, extend over ponds and link small islands to each other and to the shore. Bridges are thought by some to symbolize the transition from one world to another or from one stage of life to another. While you may not have room for a real island in your backyard pond, you can simulate this effect with a few stones poking out of the water and your bridge can span the pond.

Flowers themselves are not common in Zen gardens. A few flowering plants such as iris, lotus or lilies may be found near water. More commonly found in Zen gardens are shrubs and vines such as azaleas and wisterias that are pruned into shapes which often mimic the natural landscape.

The sand in Zen gardens in usually white and is always raked into patterns. The rake is used to form ripples in the sand that imitate water.

Stones are a major part of any Zen garden. There is evidence that Shinto priests were the first to place the rocks in these gardens. You can use a wide variety of types and sizes of rocks.

Trees of any kind can be placed in your Zen garden. Pine, bamboo, flowering plum and cherry trees are commonly used. Different trees have different meanings in the Shinto religion and often represent living long and weathering adversity. Used for practical purposes, trees add colour to a plain garden.

Water can represent mythical or real bodies of water, provide a relaxing area for meditation or be a gathering place. In dry, sand gardens, water can be simulated with sand, rock and moss.

Waterfalls can fall directly into ponds or fall in stages over rocks. If the waterfall falls directly, it is usually bordered by tall rocks and the water will hit one stone at the bottom where it enters the pond. In a sand garden, a waterfall can be imitated with a fall of rocks. Waterfalls are said to represent how the universe always changes but always stays the same.