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Japanese garden ideas

Your guide to designing a zen garden

Japanese gardens, also known as zen gardens, are a welcome refuge from the hustle and bustle of daily life. First created by monks in the Muromachi period, they were built besides temples as a place to reflect on the Buddha’s teachings. Nowadays, they’re celebrated all over the world for their serenity and elegance. Every element of a Japanese style garden has a purpose – to promote mindfulness and encourage rest.

Are you looking for more ways to connect with nature, reduce stress, and find a sense of balance in your life? We’ve taken some inspiration from traditional zen gardens to help you design your own Japanese-inspired patch of tranquility…

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Create a zen sand garden

In traditional Japanese gardens, raking gravel is a meditative act which helps to improve mental clarity and focus. Carefully place rocks of different sizes on a patch of gravel or sand and use a rake to create patterns.

One of the most common methods is the water drop pattern. To recreate it yourself, place a rock in the middle of some sand or gravel and create a circle pattern radiating from the rock with your rake. Not only is this a therapeutic practice, but it will also create a beautiful effect in your mini zen garden. Experiment with different patterns, be as creative as you like, and most of all, enjoy the process.

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Build a water feature

No zen garden is complete without water in some form, whether that’s a trickling water feature or a glistening koi pond. The sound of flowing water instantly soothes and calms the mind. Create a wonderful oasis in your outdoor space with one of our calming garden water features or fountains.

If you’re thinking of adding a pond to your garden, check our helpful DIY guide and discover everything you need to know about designing and creating a pond.

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Plant calm and sensory plants

Nature has everything you need for a relaxing space; swaying grasses, subtle scents and colours that can calm or lift your mood. Think blues, pinks, and greens for your colour palette. These gorgeous plants will look glorious in your zen garden…

  • Clematis
  • Alpines
  • Dicentra spectabilis
  • Stipa
  • Scabiosa
  • Wisteria sinensis
  • Bacopa
  • Senecio
  • Delphinium
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Make space to sit and reflect

Our gardens are our safe space from the big and scary world out there. Create a comfortable sitting area where you can escape from your hectic schedule and simply sit, reflect, and be still for a moment.

Whether it’s a wooden arbour, pergola, or gazebo – create an attractive al fresco seating area to unwind in. Add outdoor cushions, blankets, and Japanese style ornaments to make the space even more cosy and inviting.

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Place a Japanese garden ornament

Japanese gardens typically have a central feature which draws the eye in. Use a garden ornament, such as a sculpture or statue, to create a beautiful focal point in your garden. You could bring a spiritual dimension to the garden with a Buddha statue.

When it comes to choosing ornaments for your zen garden, keep it simple. The Japanese aesthetic is all about minimalism, so select pieces that are simple and understated. Also, when choosing where to place your ornament, consider the overall design of the garden and how different elements will interact with each other.

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Plant a Japanese maple tree

Caring for and tending to nature is another mindful activity which can promote focus and clarity. With their vibrant foliage and graceful shapes, Japanese maple trees (otherwise known as acers) bring colour and beauty with them wherever they go.

Planting a tree in your garden is a wonderful way to connect with the natural world. From planting to pruning, each stage in the tree lifecycle will cultivate a sense of purpose.

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Add garden paths for a mindful stroll

If you’ve got a lot on your mind, sometimes there’s nothing better than going for a stroll and reflecting on your worries or doubts.

Add some curving paths using gravel or stepping stones to create a garden walkway. You can make your path as long or short as you like, it could wind through foliage and trees, or it could meander around a pond or other feature. Japanese stroll gardens allow you to slow down and appreciate the beauty of nature.

Meditate outside

A dedicated space for meditation

Carve out a dedicated space for meditating. It could be a patch on the grass or a spot on your patio or decking. Meditation is a powerful tool for focusing on the present and gaining a new perspective.

Just ten mindful minutes a day can have a huge impact on your wellbeing and quality of life. Meditating in nature, surrounded by the whistling trees and tweeting birds, will help to soothe your mind for an even deeper practice.