Perhaps you’ve seen a desktop Zen garden, complete with a tiny rake used to etch patterns into a tray of sand. These miniature Zen gardens are a portable replica of the life-sized versions. Originating in Japan, Zen gardens were first built by Buddhist monks as tranquil outdoor spaces for meditation.
Purists will insist that a true karesansui, or Zen garden, must be a dry, minimalistic landscape that contains gravel, rock, sand, and wood elements. Plants in a traditional Zen garden are few and far between, and bright colors are not typical. These natural elements are often accompanied by human-made features such as bridges, fences, screens, sculptures, and lanterns.
However, contemporary interpretations of Zen gardens are more flexible, with gardeners using the traditional elements to complement their own individual styles and tastes. This can include water features, lush plantings, and other deviations from the rigid minimalist style of the original Zen gardens. In the following, you can learn more about how to design and create a Zen garden, as well as the tools and supplies you need for a Zen garden landscape.