Zen Gardening

About Zen Gardening

Zen gardens were built long ago to help Zen monks in their quest for enlightenment. The placement of natural elements such as sand and stones to represent mountains and water allows the person meditating to forget the physical self while contemplating the meaning of the universe.

Traditional Japanese gardens use all natural materials and have an emphasis on harmonious spatial beauty. Zen gardens often incorporate straight lines, swirls, stones, wood, and other non-living components to help in meditation. The gardens can also incorporate water if a water fountain or pond is desired.

The underlying philosophy of Japanese gardens is a combination of Shintoism, which reveres nature, Buddhism, which reveres life, and Zen, which seeks to perceive the fundamental reality in all things and abide by the laws of nature.

Zen gardens are used in meditation. In the west, they are considered tools for concentration and relaxation. They calm the nerves and aid the imagination.

Zen gardening uses a variety of techniques and media to produce a certain effect. Water, plants and stones are placed together to work in harmony.

Rock Zen Gardening

Rock Zen Gardening is the art of using stones to create gardens. Usually, gravel is poured out over the garden area and large stones are added. The gardener, using a rake, maps out designs in the gravel first by raking back and forth along the length of the garden and then by producing swirls that dance around the stones and around each other. The stones are meant to represent mountains and the swirls are meant to represent water. Any kind and color of stones and gravel can be used, but the stones are usually dark and the gravel us usually white.

Creating a Rock Zen Garden

It is easy to create your own rock Zen garden in your own yard, garden, or inside your home.

For a large rock garden, map out the area of your yard that you wish to use. For the border, you can use bricks, large stones, or metal flower bed border. Dig up the area you are going to make into the garden about 4 inches deep; just enough to remove the grass and other plants. Lay down enough small rocks or gravel to cover the ground at least 2 inches or more. You will want to make it difficult for plants to take purchase in your garden. Once you have lain the gravel, you are ready to choose your large stones. You can choose stones of different colors or the same color. Choose as many stones as you like but remember not to choose too many. The amount is up to you. Lay the stones where you want in the garden and rake patterns around them. You can change the pattern as often as you like. If you wish, you can make your own special rake for using in your garden using wooden dowel rods.

For a small rock garden, you should map out the area and purchase the stones first. You will not need very large rocks for the Zen garden if it is going to be small. Use bricks, stones or metal flower bed border to edge your garden. Fill the garden with sand, pebbles or gravel.

Other ideas for your rock garden might be to create patterns in the stones using different colored rocks. For example, you might create Chinese or Japanese characters out of black rock in a white rock bed. You could create diminishing rings of pebbles around your larger stones or rings of colored stones that fade gradually to the color of the gravel. The possibilities are endless.

Making a Miniature Zen Garden

Miniature Zen gardens are readily available for purchase to the public in gift shops, bookshops, and on the internet. If you would like to make your own, there are some easy ways to get started. For the container, you can use any type of low flat box. If you would like to make one, you can purchase pieces at a hardware store for just a little money and make one yourself. To construct the base, you will need:

  • 1 flat piece of wood (about 1/8 inch thick) 9x9 inches
  • 4 pieces of square dowel 1 inch wide, 10 inches long
  • Wood glue

Lay the square piece flat and glue the dowel pieces along the sides. You can paint the base if you wish or leave it natural. Sand the pieces after gluing them together.

For the rest of the garden, you will need:

  • Stones of any color or shape
  • A long twig to make a rake
  • Sand of any color you wish
  • Wood glue
  • Wood cutting tool

Pour the sand into the base and add the stones that you have chosen. When you are ready to make the rake, take the stick, the glue and the wood cutting tool. Cut a piece of the twig about 4 inches long. Cut a second piece about 2 inches long. Then make three or four more pieces that are about ½ an inch long. The long piece will be the handle. Glue the second piece sideways to the end of the handle. Then glue the smaller pieces onto the second piece. Now your garden is ready for raking.

Tending Your Miniature Zen Garden:

  • Pour the sand into the base. Gently shake the garden to level out the sand and make it smooth
  • Make parallel lines over the entire surface by slowly raking the sand. Relax and move the rake slowly to achieve the maximum effect-both physically and mentally
  • Carefully arrange the stones — either by themselves or in clusters
  • Rake around the stones to create circular patterns
  • Tend your dry landscape garden often for it is a powerful aid to meditation that will assist the gardener to gain inner harmony and increased creativity
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