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  • Writer's pictureAron Pinto

Landscaping 101 – Create Your Own Zen Garden Retreat

Just imagine it – coming home after a long hard day at work/caring for the kids/going to school/all three and then some and having the chance to retreat to a tranquil paradise that was specially designed for relaxation and to promote a sense of well being, calm and peace. Sounds pretty darn good right? and that is exactly what a Zen garden is.

Zen gardens are also a hugely popular choice among those who really don’t have the time, or patience to deal with a lot of landscaping and gardening work. So if you are hoping to buy a home in the Waterloo Region but are sometimes a little intimidated by the amount of lawn you’d have to mow around a certain property adding one of these could be the answer!

Creating your own Zen garden is not anywhere as hard or as expensive as you might imagine and for the gardening impaired it might be a dream come true!

A karesansui (Japanese rock garden) or Zen garden as it is now more commonly known, is an enclosed shallow sandbox which is made up of sand, gravel, rocks, and occasionally grass or other natural elements. The main elements of karesansui are rocks and sand though, with the sea symbolized not by real water but by sand raked into ripple patterns to represent waves. As complicated as this sounds at first, it really isn’t.

Here is a basic, step by step guide:

Find your location – A Zen garden has to be in a quiet place. If you have a larger garden you can choose a single corner of it (a Zen garden does not have to be very big) while leaving the rest of the space for more traditional uses.

Mark Your Spot – Trace the boundaries of your garden. If you are using a grassy section of the garden it may be easier to buy an ornamental pool liner and sink that into the ground than trying to cut shapes into the sod.

Use Gravel First – Before you lay down the sand portion of your garden, cover the area with pea gravel or wood chips, which will help stop all of the sand from blowing away.

Choose a Fine Sand – Coarse building sand is not suitable for a Zen garden. Instead, head to a toy shop and pick up some bags of play sand instead, the kind they use for kids’ sandpits which has the right color and texture.

Choose a Border – In ancient Japan monks built intricate woven bamboo walls for their karesansui. You probably can’t do that, but you can add a bamboo fence.

Finding the Rocks – Ideally, the rocks in your garden should be non-uniform. Take a trip down to a river to see what you can find before opting for garden centre rocks instead.

To plant or not to plant? – Traditionally a Zen Garden is plant free, but many modern takes on the theme make use of sparse greenery. Moss is a very popular (and easy to care for) choice and bonsai trees can be a nice touch as well.

Need some inspiration? Check out our gallery below:



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