Zen Gardens – A Quick And Helpful Guide

Zen gardens ARE part of Japanese gardens and their culture. In Kyoto for example you can see some of the World’s finest examples of Zen gardens. Often they are part of the grounds of temples but their popularity all over the world means that they have become multi faceted and mutli purpose.

Zen gardens can be indoors, on roof terraces and obviously outdoors. A Zen garden should have more than one meaning for the viewer – interpretation is key. As the Japanese say ‘the mind is flexible if we practice flexibility’.

Listen To Our Zen Gardens Podcast….

Here is our latest ‘Turn Your Garden Japanese Podcast’ that you can listen to and it will tell you pretty much everything you would want to know about Japanese Zen gardens or to give them their correct name ‘Karesansui’ gardens – take a few minutes to relax into the world of Zen gardens and CLICK on the audio player below:

Buddhism is the root of Zen gardens and they can be used on many different levels. In Japanese the word ‘Karesansui’ means ‘dry monutain water’. Hundreds of years ago Buddhist monks would draw metaphors in dirt and so began the basics of Zen gardens withing ZEN. It is after all an aspect.

The Purpose Of A Zen Garden At Home….

For me a Zen garden is all about making the visitor or owner feel comfortable. Away from the hustle and bustle of life going on around you. a garden with a few rocks and raked sand has a tremendously calming appeal. It encourages the mind to focus on what we see and not flit around all over the place.

Zen gardens are very practical for meditation because of their feeling of calmness. The were almost visually medicinal in a way. In years gone by the wealthy, samurai and even high ranked politicians were invitied to take Tea and view these types of gardens from seated galleries. They would take in the elements of the garden and appreciate it’s meaning – for example a large stone in the middle of a Zen garden should represent the centre of the universe.

Zen gardens are designed to help us get away from a single subjective view of life . They can be visually decieving to stimulate the train of thought of a viewer. A good example of this is Ryuan-ji Zen garden which has 15 stones but wherever you view the garden from you can only see 14 stones.

Zen says that you cannot see all the things all of the time.

Some Zen gardens demonstrate the forces of YIN and YANG – the Chinese understanding of natural forces that alster our lives and the changes in our environment. In Buddhism a similar belief is called NIYAMAS – a belief of natural forces that can change our lives and world.

Would You Like To Learn More AND Have Your Own Peaceful & Serene Japanese Garden Space?

Zen gardens are a pretty complicated subject and if you would like to make one make sure you do your research. a lot of people like the concept and love the feeling of visual and literal tranquility that they bring.

Here is a guide to the essential ingredients for a Zen garden so you can get planning and designing. Don’t forget to ‘level’ an area of your yard or garden and get rid of the dreaded weeds completely:

Stones: try not to get stones that are too small. Arrange then before adding them to your garden until your feel happy with their placement. Take a photgraph to remember the arrangement for ease of adding them to the garden later on.

Rocks: You will need quite a few – it is best to gather them together in groups no lower than 3 and about 4 or 5 of those stone clusters will be sufficient.Partially bury your larger rocks into the ground in the layout that pleases your eye.

Brick and Wood: Primarily you will use either of these to ‘edge’ your garden space. You can use stones if you wish.

Fabric– you should source some landscape fabric cover sheeting. Cut to cover the base of your entire garden space. This will help prevent the return of weeds and provide a surface for your next ingredient.

Sand / Small Pebble Gravel: a covering of 4 to 5 inches will be enough ( approx 8 to 10 centimetres) going around the rocks and up to the edge of the Zen garden on all sides.

A Rake: This will give you the final ‘Zen garden’ look. Rake the sand or gravel as simply as possible. Take a look at photo’s and copy their raking if you want to be influenced by the expert Zen gardeners.

You can add pottery pieces, maybe a statue, a small pond it is up to you. these types of gardens are tranquil and peaceful and SO easy to maintain – no growing and apart from plucking out the odd protruding weed there is very little to do.

Zen gardens are special peaceful havens in a busy and stressful world and they are pretty simple to build and you will have fun too! Try our FREE book ’11 Simple Ways To Turn Your Garden Japanese’ for some inspiring garden ideas for making a Japanese garden at home! 11 Simple Ways To turn your Garden Japanese Book



How To Make A Japanese Garden In 30 Days – The Help And Knowledge You NEED

Find out how you can easily have your own dream Japanese garden space at home by visiting: http://www.expressjapanesegardenclub.com


Making a Japanese Garden In A Small Space On PINTEREST

Here’s some of our Pinterest boards with LOTS of useful HELP, ADVICE and INSPIRATION for making a Japanese garden at home.

Follow Japanese Garden Information’s board Making A Japanese Zen Garden on Pinterest.


Check out the Express Japanese Garden Club too. Create your own Japanese garden space – guaranteed for under $5.00!


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Creating A Japanese Garden For Your Yard Or Garden – Presentation To View

A short presentation to help with creating a Japanese garden in your yard or garden. The presentation explains what is required and what you should consider and DO to create your own Japanese garden in a small space.

CLICK HERE for our FREE Japanese garden design book to really help get you started and to give you some wonderful ideas.

Making A Japanese Garden – Flat Gardens

Flat gardens within Japanese garden culture one of the simplest forms of gardens you can consider when planning a Japanese garden space.

Flat gardens, or Hira-niwa in Japanese ,do not have hills and do not have any water in the way that a western garden would. The flat area which is essentially made of either sand or more usually gravel IS the water. All Japanese gardens tend to be a lesson in environment and space.

Part of Portland's Japanese Flat Garden Courtesy of www.tripadvisor.com

Part of Portland’s Japanese Flat Garden Courtesy of www.tripadvisor.com

Just like in a Zen garden the gravel is raked into swirls and different shapes to give the impression of the movement in a body of water. The ground is usually covered this way and on occasions I have seen flat gardens that use very small pebbles ,once again raked in circles and straight lines to give the impression of water  ripples.

A flat garden can include many familiar ingredients that you would expect when making a Japanese garden. Stones, Rocks, Trees and Shrubs are very common. The trees although natural will be pruned and the low level shrubs and bushes shaped on the edge of the water space.

Courtesy of www.japanesegarden.com

Courtesy of www.japanesegarden.com

Flat gardens were first designed to interpret and in miniature mimic Japan’s seaside landscapes or some of its grander lakes, a journey through Japanese garden history points to war and water shortages as to why water was replaced by gravel as a ‘dry’ substitute. This is a trend that has continued for hundreds of years even in peacetime and with abundant supplies of water. The Edo period of Japanese history is when flat gardens became very popular.

Interestingly water features apart from a body of water are fairly common in a Japanese ‘Flat’ garden. For example, large upright stones can symbolise a waterfall and this something that you can copy for a garden space that you have in mind however large or small.

Use non sharp edged rocks or stones ( Granite) to depict islands within your gravel water area. 3 together is a popular representation of ‘The Isles of The Immortals’.The Japanese Circle and Gourd Islands are often copied and represented in the gravel water area to add the spirit of enlightenment. You will be able to get the correct rocks and stones from your local aggregate supplier – take sometime to consider the shapes that you want and strictly speaking for authenticity you should not use rounded stones.

Other ingredients that you may wish to add to a flat garden are stone lanterns, included for the illumination of parts of the garden at night, basins and if you are very ambitious even a well ! Well’s are normally constructed out of wood and have some way of getting the water out of the well – a pulley and bucket or a large wooden spoon are common.

Stepping stones can be placed across the gravel water area and look very effective if they lead to the far side of the gravel area where a rustic hut or pagoda is located. After the 16th century this was a popular type of design where the hut would be used for the slow and meaningful Tea ceremony.

A completed flat garden will give a real impression of depth of space to the viewer as the eye is drawn into the water area with the clipped shrubs on the faraway edge. The stones or rocks placed carefully within the raked gravel ‘water’ area give a feeling of depth and perspective relative to the scale of the garden.

As a Zen garden is designed to be viewed from a single space it is exactly the same with a Japanese flat garden. The view is sometimes ‘framed’ when a veranda door is opened or when looking through a larger window into the garden itself.

A flat garden is often seen as similar to a landscape painting when designed and built correctly to scale. The viewer’s eyes are drawn across the water to the carefully clipped low level shrubs and plants like Lilies or Azeleas. In Japan plantings are deliberately made in a flat garden to show off the seasons.

Maples for the autumn , Cherry blossom looks its best in Spring, the soothing impression of water signifies summer and something like a Black Pine denotes the winter.

Flat gardens became an alternative to hill gardens in Japan as were amongst then first residential gardens added to the homes of ordinary Japanese people and they continue to be a wonderful type of garden today for any yard or garden area.

I believe a ‘Flat’ or Hira-niwa garden is a cost effective and beautiful option for a domestic Japanese garden as it includes some of the essential ingredients needed for a Japanese garden as well as the classic Japanese garden design method of borrowed scenery. This is where the designer either copies a specific landscape in miniature or use existing scenery such as a hill located outside of the flat garden space to include it in the overall garden view.

But, lets face it, not many of us have a natural piece of landscape that we can include in our overall design so just the copying of a real or imaginary landscape will be more than enough. Creating miniature landscapes allows your creative juices to flow and your imagination to run wild! All the more reason to get started on building your dream Japanese garden space.

For more help with a flat garden design and how to develop your own stunning Japanese garden get your free copy of my latest book ’11 Simple Ways To Turn Your Garden Japanese’ by CLICKING HERE

Best Wishes and I hope you have found this information useful and inspiring for your own Japanese garden space!














Making A Japanese Garden – Rewarding But Demanding Too!

Steve’s Tea House – made of Cedar

Thanks for visiting my website , and hopefully I can give you some inspiration if you are thinking of making a Japanese garden. I visited a gentleman called Steve at his home to take a look at his Japanese Pond viewing garden.

It has been a labour of love for Steve who lived and worked in Japan for 7 years. On a business trip before he moved there he had a couple of hours to spare before catching a flight home and asked the concierge at the hotel if they could recommend something to do for a couple of hours.

“Do you like gardens?” the concierge asked Steve , to which he replied “Yes” and he promptly directed to look at his very first Japanese garden with its different entrances, beautifully crafted Azeleas , trees and shrubs. Rock formations and paths at right-angles.

He was struck by it’s beauty and promptly fell in love with Japanese gardens. Whilst in Japan he visited over 80 different gardens mainly in the Kyoto area and amassed a very large collection of Japanese garden textbooks and journals.

The knowledge he gained was defining in his plans for making a Japanese garden and this he did at his home in the UK. It took two years to build , is completely enclosed and has a large Koi pond which has been troublesome to say the least.

Japanese plants, trees and shrubs grow freely in his garden as the climate difference between Japan and the UK is actually not that different. As he pointed out to me some of his Acer’s in their native Japan can withstand sub-zero temperatures.

I went to film a video with Steve and to ask him all sorts of questions about his Japanese garden and its construction and will be making this chat available soon. I have to edit it first!

Steve says the most demanding part of the garden were the rocks, pond and pathways as he wanted to stay true to his original design. Like me Steve also believes very strongly that you have ‘freewill’ to go about making a Japanese garden in whatever styles or styles you wish.

His is a Pond Viewing garden BUT it has a Tea house too because he likes them. That is the key message about making a Japanese garden – add what you want and what feels right in your garden area. Don’t be intimidated by technical books after all Japanese gardens are simplicity with nature!

It was a really interesting visit and I am looking forward to letting you see the video but to wet your appetite here are some photograph’s of Steve Mazloumian’s Japanese garden!

Steve has about 8 different varieites of Acer’s in the garden

The Moon Window – providing a peak into the garden!

A Koi Pond, Lantern and Autumn Colours!

A Zen feel to one area of the garden – note the autumn colours again.

Making a Japanese Garden – Fences and Gates

Hi Japan Directory

If you are ambitious and keen to make a realistic representation of a Japanese garden then a couple of things you will be probably be interested in are GATES and FENCES.

Typical example of fencing in a Japanese garden

Most Japanese gardens are intended to be seen from outside looking in and have a feeling of being seperate from our everyday world. Enclosure of the garden is achieved by the use of gates and fences whether wooden or made of Bamboo.

Zen gardens are havens of tranquilty and contemplating whilst a Japanese garden is also a place where visitors can go to escape form the stresses and strains of life – a gate signifies the place where you can enter this separate world and a signifier of returning to the world once you exit the garden.

You may think that fences are all about ‘enclosure’ and that thought would seem obvious and to a certain extent is right. Fences also have another meaning associated with them its called ‘Miegakure’ in Japanese a pretty accurate translation would be ‘Hide and reveal’.

So if you are thinking of making a Japanese garden imagine how tantalising some fencing would be adorned with climbers that give the visitor a small glimpse of what lies behind your fencing – a stunning Japanese garden.

If you are keen to make a Tea garden in your space then the gate will open to a pathway that will lead to your Tea house.

The whole concept of the use of gatesand fences in a Japanese garden is all about teasing what lies within the boudaries and containing the space for respite from everyday life. The latter being the reason that these types of garden appeal to so many Westerner’s and Japanese garden designers.

A Japanese garden is a miniature expression of nature and has to be sealed off from the outside world and its worth remebering that fences and gates are just as inportant ina Japanese garden as a stone lantern or Azaleas!



10 Things To Know When Creating And Making A Japanese Garden

Making a Japanese garden is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding things that you can do. Some people love the challenge of doing it themselves others prefer the advice and design of professionals. There is an alternative that I will come onto in a while.

SO , here are 10 things to DO when creating a Japanese garden:

1) Study your subject – read books, search online ( www.makingajapanesegarden.com is FULL of inspiring and interesting information for you). Ask experts, become very familiar with what you want to achieve in your garden or yard. Get ideas and use resources like http://www.thejapanesegardenclub.com

2) Find an area for your garden and MAP it out.- Use pencil sketches of either the design or the layout and a good idea is to try and do it to scale. I use 1 inch ( 1.5cm) to one feet of garden. It works and makes things easy to plan and place in your mind and on paper.

3) Pick a theme or type of Japanese garden – are you keen on a Zen garden, or a garden that you can sit in or stroll around? Do you want to build a ‘hillside garden’ or a ‘Tea’ garden? Be clear on what style you want. Focus and a clear idea is needed.

4) Do you want a water feature – ponds are great but have to be built correctly AND look natural. Nature does not have perfectcly rectangular ponds!. Once done you will need to leave the water to settle for a couple of weeks and check the waters ‘PH’ rating before adding plants and fish. A good pump is a must too. Try not to put a pond in too shady and area and under trees ( think of the leave in autumn and your poor pump!).

5) Decide on the types of plants that you would like to put into your garden – and place them on your drawing in the spots that you feel they will look best in. You can use small or latge trees, bamboo and plants and shrubs that suit your climate.

6) What about the elements that are involved when making a Japanese garden? Stone or Suseiki , Rocks, Trees, water,plant choices, pathways, stepping stones, bridges, dry water, ornaments etc.

7) Plants and Trees– decide on varieties – Maples, Azeleas, bamboo, cherry blossom, camelia’s, moss, Iris ( my free book will give loads of ideas and an equal amount of inspiration to get started  CLICK HERE for more details).

8) Bear the ‘seasons’ in mind – when you plan your garden imagine how they will look in the changing seasons in relation to their placement in your garden.Japanese gardens should reflect ALL 4 seasons and you need to pick elements that reflect that.

9) Landscape correctly – to make the planting of plants and trees much easier. Lay them out in your garden in their pots and then once you are used to how they look, sink the pots into larger holes and see how they appear again before finally planting them. This gives you ample opportunity to see how they look in your garden and you can move them easily. You can do exactly the same with stones and rocks so you get their position ABSOLUTELY correct.

10) Seriously consider stonework -It really does look stunning – Pagoda’s, lanterns, stepping stones, water basins, gravel ( for paths and plant surround) , Bamboo fencing, Screening etc.

Making a Japanese garden will be so much fun – you use your artistic skill, knowledge and instinct to create that perfect outdoor space.

If you think that you are limited for time or perhaps only have a small budget then good news! Help is at hand in THE JAPANESE GARDEN CLUB – quite simply the best tool to help you have your own Japanese garden at home and ALL the benefits that they bring!




Making A Japanese Garden – A Japanese Courtyard Garden

www.i-love-delrey-beach.com Japanese Courtyard Garden

As promised here is some hopefully useful and inspiring news on Japanese courtyard gardens. They make great use of limited space and with a little planning they can be stunning in simplicity and pleasing on the eye.

A few days ago I wrote an introductory piece on this website about making a Japanese courtyard garden. If you scroll down on the pages left hand side you will find the article and lots of other Japanese garden related information and tips.

A courtyard garden in Japanese is called ‘Tsuboniwa’. You can include plants and ornaments but they are much more than just those two things. They are considered by many as a place to reflect and enrich the spirit and they often provide a ‘lightness’ to any home and a feeling of being enclosed but outdoors enjoying ventilation.

Making  A Japanese garden – Courtyard garden essentials…

Originally, Japanese courtyard gardens were small micro-gardens as part of a much larger building structure. They started off being really quite small just under 4 metres square in size that is around 11 feet squared and were often a common addition to many Japanese homes.

So what are the elements you can use when making a Japanese garden? If you wish to be accurate and traditional then a stone basin is a must, stone pathways, a lantern, maybe a small bridge and some garden stones. These are all strong elements and are often referred to by designers as ‘hardscape’.

Hardscape will help you set out and realise your design ideas. For example you could place a small bridge over an area of sand or gravel ( depicting water) or you could place a few larger stones withing your design that would mimic real landscapes like mountains.

Plants , shrubs and herbaceous trees will complete the finished design. As always, my advice is to sketch out your designs before starting the construction. A good rule of thumb is one inch squared equals one suare foot on your plan.

It is quite possible that your Japanese courtyard garden will have walls on each side and may be denied generous sunlight so you will have to pickj your trees, shrubs and plants accordingly. If it is a really shdy are then go for mosses – they will flourish and provide a blanket of different greens and the occasionally light brown to accentuate your hardscape features.

Your sunlight in the garden will dictate what plants and shrubs will flourish in an area of direct sunlight, shade or bright light (not direct sunlight).Its a small scale garden so try and stick with dwarf bonsai and a good dollop of groundcover plants that fit your environment. Always check the growing needs before buying to avoid dissapointment.

The chances are your Japanese courtyard garden will not be blessed with lots of natural water so pick plants that require little water. If you feel uncomfortable about including plants, shrubs and bonsai trees then you can always just design a space that is a traditional ‘Tsuboniwa’. By this I mean DRY – no water or plants etc. The earliest and more traditional courtyard gardens follow this ‘rule’.

They used rocks, sand , gravel etc to copy real landscapes scenes from a familiar local area. It is fun using your imagination – rake sand in swirls to signify water, a stone basin containing water can signify a lake or even an ocean! You can go small medium or large with your landscape copying, it will depend on the size of your available area.

A Japanese courtyard garden takes some organising and thought. Don’t just place ingredients willy nilly. Your plan should reflect an area of contemplation, tranquility and spiritual learning and reflection. Do not overcrowd it!

I heard a saying that is SO true ….” Plan your Japanese courtyard garden with a minimalist approach and the economy of a poet”

Get a thorough insight into Japanese courtyard gardens and how you can design a beautiful area for your home by getting a FREE copy of our design book ’11 Simple Ways To Turn Your Garden Japanese’ by CLICKING HERE


Making A Japanese Garden – Courtyard Gardens

In Japan courtyard gardens were built with space at a premium and for somewhere to go and sit in peace to get away from searing summer heat. They are never big gardens and would be a perfect consideration for you if you are limited for space.

Quality design, ideas and materials are essential to give a courtyard garden the right look, feel and amience. Sometimes they can just be a place to de-stress and relax and some are built for well being purposes.

A ‘courtyard’ garden in Japanese is Tsuboniwa and essentially is an enclosed garden space and despite the lack of space they take up it gives you a really good opportunity to express yourself and your design ideas. Remember this is a garden project that is small and viewed close up which means it will need to be of a high quality.

Whether you want it for tranquility or as a wellness garden your design needs to be well thought through and there are a number of ingredients to think about. Stones and rocks in Japanese gardens as you may know play a very important role and so they do in a courtyard garden.

Making a Japanese garden is the dream of many people all over the world and this small enclosed variety can look stunning with a little effort. Here’s what you should look at using:

– Gravel


Stones – perhaps the most important ingredient. It could be a basin (Chozubachi), hand washing utility ( Tsukubai), stone lantern (s) (Toro), stepping stones if part of a water feature (Tobishi), stone paving (nobedans).

A Japanese garden usese rocks and stones as a focal point for the viewer or visitor and its the same when making a Japanese courtyard garden.

Quality of design and ingredients should be your watchword. I have put a couple of photographs on this article to give you an idea of what I am talking about.

In my next article, I will be expanding on designing a Japanese courtyard garden and in particular on the plants to use and the look of the garden. Please keep coming back if you are interested in the subject of making a Japanese garden.Coutesy of japanesegardenfountaindesigns.info