How to Create a Zen Garden

Zen gardens are an ancient Japanese tradition, but have become increasingly popular in the UK in recent years. Amid the stress of the 21st century, people are always looking for different ways to relax – so one attraction is that this type of garden has a famously serene atmosphere, as well as being easy to maintain. Gravel or sand and rocks are key features but, if you want to create your own Zen garden, you can also include elements such as wooden fencing.

This will help to give a rustic and natural look, especially if you choose willow or hazel panels. Suffolk timber merchants Nelson Potter stock a wide choice of fencing panels and other items to help build your own tranquil outdoor haven, ranging from railway sleepers, decking products and planters to garden furniture.

It is believed Zen gardens originated in Japan in the 14th century, when Buddhist monks created them as peaceful places where they could meditate. These gardens are still included in Buddhist monasteries today, but this style of design has also spread from Japan to be embraced around the world. The first Zen gardens contained no water, just sand or gravel raked to create a pattern of waves. This has changed over the centuries and modern gardens in this style often do include water features, such as fountains.

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Why Zen Gardens Are So Inspiring

The arrangement of rocks and gravel in a Zen garden all works to create a restful space with a sense of mystery. Many of the gardens look very simple, but that’s deceptive, because there is a careful design at their heart. The first Zen gardens were inspired by landscape painting, with rocks placed upright to resemble mountains, while the rippling gravel was meant to suggest water.

The huge numbers of visitors who head for the most celebrated Zen gardens in Japan show their enduring fascination. One of the most famous is Ryoan-ji, at a Zen temple in north-west Kyoto, believed to date from the 15th century. It is a rectangular white gravel bed with 15 large stones arranged in it, surrounded by moss. The gravel is still raked by the monks every day. Another popular Japanese rock garden is the one at Manshu-in temple, in north-east Kyoto, which includes a 400-year-old white pine tree on a small island surrounded by sand.

There are also many other famous rock gardens in Japan, as well as others around the world. In Russia, a Zen garden has recently been created to mark the 300th anniversary of the St Petersburg Botanic Gardens. The area was designed under the supervision of Japanese experts and includes a tea pavilion and lily pond as well as a rock garden.

If all this inspires you to create your own Zen garden at home, wooden fencing experts Nelson Potter, based near Ipswich, have put together some tips to get you started.

Designing and Creating Your Zen Garden

As well as having a tranquil atmosphere, Zen gardens make a great use of limited space, which makes them especially attractive in urban settings. If you are looking for a way to make the best use of a small backyard, this type of design could be the answer. You could also create a Zen garden as part of a larger space, including patio garden furniture so that you and your family or guests can relax and enjoy the peace and quiet.

To create a container for the gravel, the ideal material to use is railway sleepers, which are available from Nelson Potter. These need to be nailed or screwed together firmly, with a weed barrier liner. The sleepers can then be filled with sand or gravel and this should be spread as evenly as possible with the rake. Add other items as you choose, including stones and pebbles. Then rake the gravel to create a wave effect.

What to Include

Most Zen gardens do not contain a large number of plants, but this puts a greater focus on those which are included, so you may want to use wooden planters to showcase them. Wooden fencing can also make an important contribution, and Nelson Potter’s range includes decorative lattice-topped fence panels which will help to create a natural look, combined with wooden gates.

If your garden includes a path, then lining it with logs from our selection of Machine Rounds will add a rustic touch. You could also consider adding an area of timber decking, while yet another element which will give interest is a water feature, such as a pond or fountain. Many Zen gardens contain statues or stone lamps, but you could also put in a wooden arbour, trellis or arch as an eye-catching feature. And log cabins or summer houses make the perfect finishing touch to rock gardens, so that they can be enjoyed even in bad weather.

This type of garden is easy to maintain in future, as there is no lawn to mow, and you can easily adapt it if you want to, for instance by adding more features or raking the sand or gravel in a different pattern. The raking can be constantly varied to create different effects.

Once your Zen garden is complete, it will become a haven where you can get away from it all and relax, as well as inviting friends to enjoy this tranquil space.

About Nelson Potter

Whether you need wooden fencing, timber board decking, a log cabin kit or outdoor garden furniture, Nelson Potter are the people to contact. Family-owned for more than 35 years, we serve customers across Suffolk and Essex.

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