Ahhh Zen… the state of calmness, oneness, peace. Unfortunately amidst a global pandemic a state of Zen has not been easy to come by. With the Office For National Statistics reporting an increase in high levels of anxiety across the UK. Many have taken to their gardens to find solace during lockdown and the benefits to physical and mental wellbeing have been widely recognised. Zen Gardens emphasise the principles of naturalness & simplicity and have for centuries offered an iconic place of calm. Once used by buddhist monks to aid and teach meditation. With just a few key elements, any sized area can be turned into a haven of tranquility following our helpful How To Create A Zen Garden guide.
Planning & Foundations
Pick a flat area in the garden where you would like to sit and relax in. If you plan to use plants in your design then factor in their sunlight requirements. The size of the garden is completely up to your own preference and the space available. As a guide, factor in what key elements you would like to include from below and ensure the space can accommodate them.
Traditional Zen Gardens are surrounded by walls to create privacy but wooden lattice fences or hedges would also work well. For a more subtle nod to tradition, decking rope could be added to create the illusion of privatising a space.
Once you have chosen and marked out a space:
1. Clear the area, taking a few inches from the top of the soil.
2. Place wall /hedges/ fencing around the outside of the garden.
3. Use a garden edging such as Portland Stone Edging around the edge of the area to contain the gravel.
Carefully raked gravel with precisely placed rocks make up the main part of a Zen Garden. Once the foundations are laid, it is time to choose and lay out the gravel. The gravel can be raked into round, spiral or rippled patterns that represent bodies of water. Many find the sound of raking gravel to be very soothing and the act of maintaining and creating patterns can lend to a meditative state.
Glacial Gravel can add vibrancy and interest to an area, boasting a spectrum of colours and stones. If meticulously raking the garden is not for you, a low maintenance option could be Welsh Slate Chippings which offer great coverage and a contemporary finish. The grey tones also lend well to the Zen principles – natural and simplistic.
Rocks, stones & boulders
Zen Gardens are also known as Japanese rock gardens, this is because the rocks are seen as the most important part of the garden. Often symbolising nature such as mountains, coast and animals. Rocks and monoliths should be carefully selected and precisely placed. The placement is of utmost importance and they are rarely seen placed in straight lines.
The most common way to display them is by grouping them into threes known as triads. With one central vertical stone representing Buddha and the two smaller boulders either side – his attendants. In later times, boulders were used as ‘nameless’ rocks placed in a seemingly random fashion to promote spontaneity.
Natural Stone Monoliths and Boulders add a real focal point to this simplistic design with large monoliths working well as stand alone pieces or smaller ones used to create a harmonious display. Try surrounding them with smaller boulders such as a Welsh Slate Reservoir Surround or subtly introduce the element of water with a Boulder Water Feature.
Stone Monolith SM150 Water Feature
Stone Monolith SM150 is a beautiful granite tower in natural cream and orange tones, core drilled for water flow. This piece has a wonderful shape and is certain to enhance any garden design. The photos are of the exact stone and there is only one available.
Reservoir & Pump available in the basket.
Stone Monolith SM151 Water Feature
Stone Monolith SM151 is a 550mm tall tower of Welsh granite, core drilled to allow water to flow over the whole piece. This piece was chosen for it’s beautiful blend of creams, greys and light oranges and there is only one available.
Large Reservoir Pack available in the basket.
Slate Monolith SM163 Water Feature
Slate Monolith SM163 is a spectacular 600mm tall tower of real Welsh Slate, core drilled vertically as a garden design water feature. This beautiful piece has a stunning mix of green tones running throught with clear shades varying across the face with a nice build up of quartz on the edge. When the water is cascading over this slate monolith, the slate will glisten and if lighting is used at night will look absolutely stunning.
Reservoir & Pump Pack available in the basket.
Granite Boulder GB38 Water Feature
Granite Boulder GB38 is an XL sized water feature full of natural earthy tones and textures with a weatherd aged feel to it. The side surface varies in texture with wonderful natural stone detailing throughout the piece. A slightly protruding ledge towards the front will create a little more interest as the water flows down at a slower pace. This could be placed in a border or rockery design and with the water flowing will create an idyllic calming oasis in the corner of a garden.
Add reservoir pack in basket.
Slate Boulder SB22 Water Feature
Stone Boulder SB17 Water Feature
Stone Boulder SB17 is a beautiful 330mm wide garden water feature, hand crafted from blue granite. This will make an exceptional feature in a border or rockery of a small or medium sized landscaping project.
Reservoir & Pump available in the basket.
Slate Boulder SB1 Water Feature
Slate Boulder SB1 is an XL sized water feature full of colour, predominantly green with a rich quartz edge which contrasts beautifully. The side surface varies in texture with wonderful natural stone detailing throughout the piece. This could be placed in a border or rockery design and with the water flowing will create an idyllic calming oasis in the corner of a garden.
Add reservoir pack in basket.
Granite Boulder GB8 Water Feature
Granite Boulder GB8 is a medium sized water feature that would make a real statement in any garden design. The colours and texture of the stone vary between green, quartz and white which nicely reflect natural elements and tones. There is also some nice craggy detailing on this decorative stone.
Pump & Reservoir pack available in the basket.
Stone Boulder SB13 Water Feature
A nice tough piece of Purbeck Stone core drilled with a 35mm diameter hole to become a water feature with our additional Reservoir Pack. This has a really lumpy rugged top and the different coloured layers within the stone are really visible. The flow of water across the top will be natural and irregular causing puddles in the dips, which is likely to attract wildlife.
Small Reservoir Pack and Slate Chippings available in the Basket.
Benches, Bridges & Stepping Stones
Benches offer a place to sit and enjoy the peace and tranquility of your Zen Garden. Intricate wooden benches could be used to add warmth or a statement. Alternatively, simple stone benches in Welsh Slate grey or Portland Stone cream hues can offer a more subtle touch, blending into the rest of the garden for a contemporary look.
Bridges or ‘Hashi’ are used to symbolise the journey we take between the planes of existence and our unity with nature. They offer a position in which to stand and ponder, to appreciate the garden and be thankful. Bridges are often placed over a body of water but they can also be placed over the gravel if this is not an option. Providing a focal point and deisgnated spot for contemplation.
Lastly, stepping stones, or ‘tobi-ishi’ which literally translates to ‘flying stones’ in japanese and are a common feature in Zen Garden Designs. They are a way of engaging a more mindful experience. After all, it takes much more care and attention to walk or jumps the stones than it does to walk a flat paved area. Slate Stepping Stones offer a natural and simplistic look and feel, with each face boasting a unique detailing. Alternatives to natural stone could be treated log stepping stones or railway sleepers to create a pathway through the garden.
Traditionally, Zen Gardens are dry landscapes with the water element symbolised in wave like shapes made in the gravel. However water features can and have been added to create a focal point to aid meditation & relaxation. In Japan, water symbolises renewal, calm & wonder. The sound and visual effects of flowing water can be highly meditative. By engaging the senses water can help bring us to focus and ‘be’ in the present moment.
Limited / No Outdoor Space?
If you are limited on space or do not have access to outdoor space, there are still ways to create your own little piece of Zen. Whether its your balcony, terrace or your window sill, by using a container you can create a mini, portable Zen Garden. With many working from home, a desk top Zen Garden can help to relieve stress and regain focus & mental clarity.
1. Find and fill a shallow container with gravel, if you would like to add in live plants, opt for air plants which can survive without the need for soil. For a larger, deeper container add soil and small succulents, then place a layer of gravel on top.
2. Select shells, stones or monoliths that draw you in and place on top of the gravel.
2.Use a mini wooden rake to create tranquil patterns.
3.Try adding tea lights which offer a warm glow and a focal point to aid meditation.
Buy Standing Stones
We stock a hand selected range of Japanese Garden Stone perfect for garden design and landscaping projects.
Buy online for Free UK Delivery*
Japanese Monolith JM21 Standing Stone
Japanese Monolith JM21 is a beautiful standing stone crafted from real Welsh Slate. This piece is 610mm tall and resembles a pyramid / mountain shape with a central peak. This quite substantial piece of slate would form the central stone if placed as a triad with smaller acoompnaying stones.
Triad of Stones TS05
Triad of Stones TS05 features three complementary tall slimline standing stones for arrangement in a landscaping project. Ideally suited to a contemporary or Japanese themed setting, these slender obelisks of real Welsh slate will bring subtle texture to any outdoor space.