“Karesansui” meaning dry landscape is the Japanese term for a Zen courtyard – also known as a Japanese rock garden. These gardens have become quite a rage amongst people looking to bid good bye to stress and negativity from their life. Having been used by Buddhists monks in ancient times for meditation, a Zen court yard is known for its therapeutic stress relieving properties along with enhancing creative flow and increasing concentration.
A Zen garden is made up of two core elements – rocks and sand- and may also include gravel, ornamental trees and grass. Rocks and stones are placed on sand or gravel in a way to symbolize mountains and islands. The sand or gravel bed is continuously raked to create sharp lines to symbolize flowing water. However, in today’s space crunch it is not always possible to create a Zen courtyard in our home. But if you are someone who is convinced of the therapeutic use of a Zen garden, but do not have the space in your home, then worry not.
We are here to teach you how to create your own mini Zen courtyard right in your room. A mini Zen courtyard is not only beautiful, but is also low maintenance and has the same therapeutic impact as an actual garden. Get armed with some sand or gravel, an empty container and some rocks or stones, and you are good to go.
Choose from the many themes available for your Zen garden – from rock gardens to water gardens to sea and shell gardens – the choice is entirely yours. Once you have finalised the theme of your mini Zen courtyard, the first step is obviously getting the base of your garden ready.
So decide on the place where you intend to have your mini Zen garden. If you do not have a corner in your room for it, you can as well have a table top mini Zen garden with exactly the same therapeutic benefits. So fish out an empty container or plate or even your old shoe box and frame it. You can choose to use wooden pallet for framing your garden. Keep in mind that a rectangular place is best suited to draw lines in the Zen garden.
If you are using a container for your mini Zen courtyard then line it with clear wrap to avoid the mess. With the base of your miniature Zen courtyard ready, it is time now to layer that with white sand. You can even choose to layer it with beach sand, coloured sand, or play sand. The minimum thickness of the sand layer should be 1 inch. Also the sand should be levelled to reap maximum benefits out of the Zen courtyard.
Next step is to place step stones and rocks on the layer of sand. Though in a traditional Zen garden rocks are ideally placed on the corners, you can place the stones and rocks according to your wish. It would not make much of difference. The colour and shape of your stones and rocks depends completely on you.
So you can use a combination of vibrant rocks or rocks of a single hue. Only thing to keep in mind here is to not put too many rocks and stones in your desktop Zen courtyard. So place a select few beautiful ones and keep it clutter free for maximum benefit. Also keep them a little submerged in the sand layer for the best effect. Take a hint from this stunning garden designed by Unique Landscapes, garden and landscape suppliers from the United Kingdom.
Once you have arranged the rocks and stones of your desktop Zen courtyard, it is time now to add some plants and moss to your dry Zen garden for a fresh, lively feel. You can even choose to buy moss covered rocks for your Zen garden.
If you wish, you can place a small bonsai for accent in your mini Zen courtyard. Make use of bonsai such as Hokidachi, Chokkan tree bonsai, Sokan or similar bonsai plants to increase the visual interest of the Zen garden. However, keep in mind to refrain from cluttering your personal Zen courtyard and keeping it as open as possible.
The Lotus flower which is sacred in the Buddhist teachings, is also added by a few devout practitioners who do not want to leave out anything important while making their own personal Zen courtyard. Water too is an important element in the Japanese culture and is considered as the yang of stone.
So, most Zen gardens incorporate water in the form of ponds or streams. If you have used white sand in your mini Zen garden, then do not worry about incorporating water as white sand represents water in a dry garden. However, if you have not used white sand or if you want to add water for aesthetic reasons, then place a small water filled bowl submerged in sand and create a water pot.
Now take a small comb, fork or rake and start creating ripples on the sand to represent a flowing mini river in your dry garden. This act of creating waves or rivers is the reason why Zen gardens are said to be extremely calming and therapeutic.
In the initial stages, you can draw any pattern you like. However, once you have got the knack of raking, you can move on to making some time honoured raking patterns such as The Aranami pattern to symbolize turbulent sea, The Ginshanda pattern, The Seikaiha pattern or others. And if you can manage the space and resources efficiently, then go for an actual mini-sized stream or pond for maximum authenticity.
Your personal dry garden or Zen garden, whether it’s on your desk top or in a corner of your room, is not a high maintenance one and needs minimum care and tending. All it requires is occasional cleaning and watering if you have used some live plants and you will enjoy its restorative effects for a long time to come. So make your own miniature Zen garden for your room or office desk and usher in peace and tranquillity in your life. Here is another ideabook to inspire you further – Extraordinary garden design.