Zen Garden Inspiration For Every Backyard

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Build your own zen garden in your backyard with this easy process. Get inspired by your own backyard to make the perfect rock garden!


Even though your backyard is bustling with activity during all seasons, with the dogs and the kids and the birds and the squirrels, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a little meditative, calm space where you can just sit and relax.

I love zen gardens. (Well, I love zen in general!) They are minimalist and beautiful, provide a sense of peace and calm, and can adapt to any environment and climate. Zen gardens traditionally have two basic features: sand to represent water, and rocks to represent the earth. More elaborate gardens also have water features, moss and pruned trees.

Would you like to have a zen garden in your backyard? It’s actually easier than you think. Let’s have a look at the steps you need to take to make a beautiful, zen feature you can admire every day.

Step 1: Choose a spot

You don’t need a lot of space to make a zen garden. Just a few square feet will do, or you can have a large one as well.

Traditional zen gardens are surrounded by a small wall and separate from other features in the garden, but these days you can integrate the zen garden within your landscape for something more flowing.

To make best use of your space, you probably want to use a spot where grass and plants don’t grow easily compared to other places in your backyard. That way you won’t be using up good growing space. Because the ground is covered in sand and small gravel, there’s no worry about light and shade amounts or the quality of the soil.

interlocking deck tiles

Interlocking deck tiles from BuildDirect.

Try to find a place where you can sit and look at the garden, ideally from above. You might want to put it in a little dip in your yard, or near your elevated patio, so you can meditate while staring at the miniature landscape.

Browse for interlocking deck tiles.

Step 2: Prepare the space

Once you’ve chosen a spot, prepare the ground by removing grass and plants, and spreading a gardening tarp. You want to avoid your sand/gravel getting lost into the soil.

You might want to build a little wall around the area with rocks or bricks. It’s meant to contain the garden and avoid the sand/gravel spreading around. If your zen garden is integrated within your landscape, make sure there are plants and stones to keep everything in.

Then it’s up to you to make your zen garden just as you want it to be.

Step 3: Build your garden

There are several traditions around making a zen garden. In concept, zen gardens are pretty abstract: they are meant to represent the essence of nature, not a real landscape. So first, you need to think about what nature represents for you. Is it harmony or chaos? Strength or fluidity?

The first items in your zen garden should be the rocks. They represent different types of land. Use tall, sharp-edged rocks for mountains; low, flat and smooth rocks represent sea or river shores. You can make groups of rocks to represent mountain ranges, islands and continents.

Avoid straight lines or symmetrical patterns. Zen gardens are part landscape, but also part intellectual exercise; few elements in nature are perfectly straight or symmetrical. The group of 3 (representing Buddha and his two attendants) is traditional.

To add some modern taste to your garden, you can add a water feature, which will make a soothing sound and give your garden some movement. Although water features are not purely traditional, they certainly make a backyard zen garden more attractive.  Choose something abstract, like this table-top type fountain, to remain within the spirit of the garden.

After you have your rock arrangement, you can set up small shrubs and pruned trees–but be ready to maintain them constantly to keep the look of your garden. Otherwise, a garden that’s made of rocks and sand is perfectly fine on its own!

Quiet zen gardens

I feel like I might want to set up a mini zen garden on my patio this summer, once the rain lets up. It’ll give me something interesting to meditate on, surrounded by the trees in the nearby park.

Do zen gardens fascinate you? How do you imagine yours would look like? Let us know in the comments!

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