Japanese rock gardens, popularly known as zen gardens, boast a long and illustrious history. Though in essence stylised rock gardens have existed since the 8th century, the popularity of zen gardens in their classical form started flourishing in the 14th century. Some of the best examples of classically styled Japanese rock gardens can be observed in Adachi Museum of Art in Yasugi, Kennin-ji Temple, Zuiho-in and Ryoan-ji Temple in Kyoto.
Being a miniature garden enclosed in a small area, this type of landscaping is ideal for the interior of any home. In its sublime presence we find a new source of inspiration, a special way to rejuvenate our weary minds and bodies. Perhaps in time, like the poet Gibran, we too come to realise, “… beauty is life when life unveils her holy face. But you are life and you are the veil. Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror. But you are eternity and you are the mirror.”
However, we cannot expect to create a serene zen garden without getting our hands dirty. The handy tips we will share with you today will help you to get started. Expect the entire process to be as exhilarating as the results of this endeavour.
Choose a spot that is suitable for creating a rock garden. You can utilise the space under the stairs, in the atrium, veranda or a suitable corner of your living room. You can even create a tiny rock garden on top your hallway table!
Then, decide on the size of your garden. Either buy or build a wood palette that will contain the soil and gravel. You can easily recycle old wooden furniture to build a container like this at home. Once you have nailed or screwed the pieces of wood into a box or frame, place it in the appropriate area. Use a weed retainer membrane underneath to keep everything tidy.
Collect tall vertical, rugged, arching and flat stones of varying sizes and prominent features. Avoid glaringly colourful rocks that are bound to distract rather than soothe the mind. Tactfully set them across the entire garden area.
In Japanese gardening special emphasis is given on the placing of these stones. Rocks placed in a group of twos and threes have special significance. Even when you are not initiated into the art of Japanese gardening, you can use your intuition to create an aesthetic rock bed.
Japanese rock gardens are also known as karesansui or “dry landscape.” The extensive use of rock and gravel is a defining feature of this type of garden.
- Line up the space with rocks.
- Neatly hammer them into the wooden ridges.
- Pour in crushed granite and gravel. Avoid using fine beach sand as it will not be able to hold the ripple effect. Besides, it may spread with the wind and make the interior feel dusty.
- Dig holes to place the plants and other landscaping features.
- Holes should be at least a couple of inches deeper than the roots of the plants.
- Build isles with white stone chips or gravel.
- With the help of garden tweezers or spades create the wave and ripple effect. Do this once your garden is completely set.
- Place a bound stone to signify the entry into a world filled with spiritual vigour.
You cannot reasonably expect to have a zen garden without adding nature’s green bounty. But limit your use of plants, since indoor rock garden with a base of sand and gravel proves to be ill equipped to nourish plants.
Alternatively, you could place small potted plants in the bed and cover them with decorative rocks and stones. Peppermint, aloe vera, snake plant, echeveria, indoor bamboo, and dragon tree are just a few of the plants that can be placed in this area. Before making your choices, assess the availability of natural light. Some plants, even when placed indoors, prefer brighter conditions.
Cover some of bare flat stones and a portion of the gravel with moss and fern. Besides creating an atmosphere filled with tenderness and geniality, moss-covered rocks and soil exude a visual charm that is hard to ignore. Choose from a variety of species like the lush green Thuidium, dark and dense Dicranum and clumps of cosy Leucobryum.
The last one, also known as cushion moss, is particularly suited for sandy soil and shady areas. Osmunda Japonica—or Japanese royal fern—has great capacities of purifying indoor air. Do not forget to make it a part of your zen garden.
Bonsai is synonymous with the gardening culture of Japan. In the words of Japanese poet Kokan Shiren it is “poetry that would lighten your heart.” Placing a bonsai in your miniature garden would further increase its charm.
You can grow bonsai from seed or buy a healthy plant from a local horticulturist. If growing indoors, select species like Carmona retusa, jade, Brazilian raintree, Schefflera arboricola and ficus that are sturdy and beautiful at the same time.
Water features do not always form a part of a zen garden. But to augment the beauty of an indoor sanctuary a water element is often added to it. Even then, being true to the essence of Japanese garden will be helpful. Deriving inspirations from Japanese tea gardens is one of way of ensuring this. In tea gardens, a tsukubai or wash basin is placed for ablution before entering into a sacred place. Water is supplied through a bamboo pipe.
Chozubachi, on the other hand, serves the same purpose but is made of boulder granite with a hole for pouring in water. Depending on the availability of space, you can choose any one of the two. Also, bear in mind that boulder rocks can be heavy and difficult to move for cleaning and reorientation of the garden. Like this zen garden designed by Japan Garden Kultur you may set a garden sink in the garden bed and pour water in it or choose to include a mini fountain.
In Eastern culture, a blossoming lotus signifies the universe. You can grow lotus or waterlily in a garden pot and place it in your rock garden. Alternatively, decorate your Japanese garden with lotus blossoms or waterlilies. From time to time you will have to take the stones and gravel out and thoroughly wash them.
All live and potted plants will have to be regularly watered and tended for nourishment. Bonsai will require periodic exposure to natural light. Gardening can be a difficult but rewarding activity. Take time out to appreciate the fruits of your labour and contemplate the infinite beauty of nature.
Also, do not forget to check some of the stellar ideas of getting your balconies summer ready.