Elements of Zen

When you think of calm, what do you think of? Japanese Zen gardens incorporate lots of rocks, stones, and sand, but not much else. For these Zen gardeners, minimalist landscapes are the epitome of Zen. You can incorporate some of these elements into your garden too, though it's also fun to add a modern twist.


Here are some of the things that you can do to add a touch of Zen to your garden:


  • Rocks: cluster large rocks in groups of three around your garden. Place these clusters in open areas that are not covered with any other kind of decoration or vegetation. Look for leftover rocks at construction sites - these rocks are free!
  • Bridge: if you have the space, adding a small or large bridge to your garden is quite traditional. Japanese Zen gardeners believe that a bridge connects one thought to another. Build your own garden bridge with these free downloadable plans!
  • Pathways: straight paths that lead through and around your garden are great for strolling, thinking, and concentrating. Buddhists believe that a carefully placed pathway is the best way to reach Buddha. Cost-effective pathways can be made from rocks, stones, and even strategically placed twigs.
  • Lanterns: lanterns made of natural materials (wood, paper, rattan, and stone) are often found in Zen gardens. Do not overcrowd your garden with lanterns, but allow candlelight to flow in and out of your garden naturally for an instant calming effect.
  • Water: adding a small fountain, pond, or water hole to your yard is a great idea. Just make sure that the water component you choose is not too overbearing.
  • Sand: you don't have to fill your entire yard with sand in order to incorporate this essential ingredient. Instead, create a small sand patch that is carefully tended to. Again, look for sand at construction sites!