If you long for moments of peacefulness beyond the limits of your home, an outdoor zen garden could be the ideal space for quiet reflection and spiritual connection without venturing too far from home. Meditative gardens are typically small, enclosed or dedicated spaces with minimal landscape and maintenance, natural elements, muted colors and few plants.
Sue Thurber, assistant garden center manager, and Zara Wirkus, landscape design assistant, for Otten Bros. Garden Center and Landscaping share tips for creating your own zen garden. The retreat should connect you to nature and allow you to be mindful, calm and present.
“Determine a location with the most privacy to allow your mind to relax. Screening the area may help,” Thurber says. She recommends picking a few elements that please you. This includes a focal point, such as a statue, lantern, small fountain, houseplant, grass or sedge. Situate a comfortable bench or chair with a view of the garden. “Add a light if you’d like to use the space in the evening or want to enjoy the view from inside your home,” she says.
Plants should be low to the ground and neutral in color, and flowers should be sparse. “The best plants include bonsai, topiaries, dwarf conifers, Korean maples, azaleas, sedges, creeping groundcovers—especially sedum—ferns and mosses,” Thurber says.
Wirkus suggests less is more. “This achieves a quiet, meditative state of mind,” she says. “Our plantings have included various evergreen varieties, Japanese forest grass, pachysandra, basically anything that is green. We’ve added a Louisa crabapple tree for its softer texture and pale pink spring flowers, as well as a Japanese maple for its warm fall colors.”
Use light colored pea gravel to represent water and ocean waves when raked in a pattern. Position rocks and boulders in and near the gravel to signify islands and mountains.
Are there considerations when hiring a design team? Thurber says, “[Consider] the team’s experience with zen gardens or clean, simple designs. Ask to see gardens they have installed and if you may contact the homeowner with questions. Know your budget and the scope of space you can dedicate to the garden, as well as the complexity of your desired elements and maintenance—waterfalls and ponds require more time than a fountain or birdbath. More plants in the garden increases time watering, weeding and fertilizing.”
Not all elements are necessary to restore mood and promote energy.
Just be intentional, be in the moment and welcome the serenity.
(No yard? Try forest bathing or shinrin-yoku, which was featured in the March 2021 issue of Lake Minnetonka Magazine. Find it at lakeminnetonkamag.com/forest-bathing.)
Otten Bros. Garden Center & Landscaping, 2350 W. Wayzata Blvd., Long Lake; 952.473.5425; ottenbros.com
@otten.bros Otten Bros