Spring Lawn and Garden 2009

When it comes to a Zen garden, simplicity is key.

Cindy Cafferty
Creators News Service

It's a complicated world out there -- one that seems to move at an increasingly rapid, nearly furious pace. Regardless of how the details play out, chances are your days are riddled with electronic devices, web communications and myriad distractions.

So how and where does a person find some simple peace and quiet? You might be able to find it right in your very own home -- in your personal Zen garden.

"The whole point of a Zen garden is simplicity, which dates back to the ancient Orient," explained Solena Landscape's Mitch Kalamian, an HGTV featured designer based in Huntington Beach, Calif. The approach doesn't matter as much as the goal of having a serene area amid the chaos.

What makes this type of garden unique from other flowering beds is its roots in ancient Asian culture and the underlying philosophy it embodies.

"A Zen garden provides a tranquil space for quiet thought, meditation and contemplation," said Karen Parziale, a Feng Shui consultant and publisher of therealestatestagingstudio.com.

Zen, a tenet of Buddhism with roots in Taoism, incorporates nature and meditation in its philosophy -- both of which are representative of and in a Zen garden. Often, the principles of Feng Shui, which uses a reverence for nature in design for both home and garden and also dates back to Taoism, are applied.

They are utilized primarily by incorporating the five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal and water. Often, an indoor or homemade version utilizes only a few of these elements -- typically, wood, earth and water.

"Inside the home, I don't necessarily use all of the elements," said Kalamian. However, one should find a way into your garden. "Moving water is important, or you can mimic [moving] water with sand or rock. Water is a big element."

Though the concept lies in Buddhism and often incorporate the elements of Feng Shui, you needn't practice either tradition to create or enjoy your own Zen garden. Nor does it need a lot of room to be authentic or a truly meditative space.

"A Zen garden is an ideal and simple way to connect with nature," explained Parziale. "Basic Zen gardens are easy to create and size is irrelevant."

So now that you know there's a way to introduce some peace and quiet into your life, the next step is to create that space.

"A Zen garden brings elements together that are not only peaceful and relaxing, but are laid out with symmetry," said Kalamian. "With Zen garden design, it's very important to factor in symmetry without it seeming contrived."

Kalamian suggested starting off with a "clean palette" -- a corner of the room or yard where nothing else is going on and that is "pretty square." Parziale agreed and added that for those with less space, a square or rectangular serving tray makes the perfect plot for this special space. Once you have a space set aside, follow these tips to create a simple and tranquil place:

  • Fill the space with sand or pea pebbles, and take a miniature rake -- or move your fingers -- back and forth across the sand, making a wave effect. This incorporates the water element paramount to a Zen garden. A fountain with slow trickling water is also a popular item.
  • Spice things up by adding elements with stone, adding the earth element. Granite also works nicely as a substitute.
  • For wood, a small Bonsai tree makes a nice, though expensive, addition. Other plant materials that work well are bamboo and grasses, particularly mondo grass.

A Zen garden is an easy and quick way to bring some simplicity and serenity into the home. So what are you waiting for? Put down that PDA and get started.



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