Top 23 Zen garden ideas for peace and quiet

Date Published: March 14th, 2019

Zen gardens are deeply rooted in the history of Japanese and Asian culture[1], previously used as a space for quiet contemplation and meditation, they have now become a popular landscaping idea for gardens and parks across the world. If you’re struggling with zen garden ideas, you can read the top 25 zen garden ideas below to help you turn your garden into a tranquil haven.

1. Zen Garden Flowers

A good way to start your zen garden is by deciding what flowers you would like to plant. For a traditional Zen garden, you could plant Wisteria Rosea, Camellia, Azalea and Lillies.

zen garden flowers

2. Plants

Zen gardens are created with a mixture of texture and colour. You can create this by adding some interesting plants. Some good Japanese zen garden plants include Athyrium Niponicum (Ursula’s red), Plantain Lilies, sacred bamboo and bamboo.

3. Trees

If you have the space to add some trees into your garden you should consider adding some of the traditional Zen garden trees such as conifers, Japanese maple and bonsai. They can really add some great extra dimension and authenticity to your outdoor space.

4. Wooden Teahouse

Traditionally, Zen gardens were meant to be seen in full from a timber tea house. Not only is this a great place to relax and take in the beauty of your garden but it also looks stunning.

traditional japanese teahouse

5. Winding Pathways

Adding a winding stone pathway to your garden not only adds more beauty to the space but it also gives your garden a direction. Previously, zen gardens were used as a place of meditation and taking a walk was a part of this. You can use the pathways to guide guests to where they need to go. You can use paths in a way so that they lead into bushes to make your garden seem larger than it is.

6. Zen Garden Pond

This idea probably requires the most space. Although your pond does not need to be large you still need to have the space in your garden to allow for other things. The pond can be decorated with floating lilies and it adds some serenity to your garden.

7. Zen Garden Bridge

Not only are bridges functional but they also look beautiful. You can place a wooden bridge over your pond to continue a pathway around your garden. Looking at the water from the bridge is also a nice way to relax.

zen garden bridge

8. Lanterns

Japanese wooden or traditional lanterns look great dotted in any zen garden. They can be used both as light sources and as decoration.

9. Statues

There are a few statues that are traditionally used in Zen gardens, they include big and small stone statues of Buddha, a rain chain (these are usually copper and make a lovely trickling sounds when filled with water) and pagodas which Japanese stone statues of traditional buildings.

10. ‘Deer Scarer’

A ‘deer scarer’ or Shishi Odoshi is two or more pieces of bamboo with holes that drop and make a sound when they fill with water. These are lovely decorations that make beautiful sounds and can be placed near a pond or amongst shrubbery.

11. Zen Garden Sand

Many ‘dry’ zen gardens use sand to create the illusion of waves or water. With the sand usually contained in a square space, it is raked to have curving lines in it. You can really be creative when raking your sand by making designs in it.

zen garden sand

12. Zen Garden Pebble Mosaics

Often pebbles are placed in a mosaic on the floor as an alternative to a stone pathway. Pebble mosaics look fascinating once finished and can be used to create various designs and patterns. They don’t have to serve as a path and often are just used as a form of decoration.

13. Large Rocks

You can place large rocks in the middle of open grass, shrubbery or sand as an added decoration. This looks great when the rocks start to grow moss and sink into their environment.

14. Zen Garden Shrubbery

Like plants, flowers and trees, shrubbery is another great way to add texture and colour into your garden. They can also be used as a border beside your paths or around your pond or sand.

15. Shaped Bushes

Whether you’re familiar with a hedge trimmer or not you can practise the wonderful art of bush or hedge shaping. You can start simple with a cone or square shape and then progress onto spiral and animal shapes. Not only does this look amazing it is also a lovely hobby for the warmer months.

16. Sound Bowls and Gongs

Sound bowls or ‘singing bowls’ are Buddhist instruments intended to help with meditation. They also look extremely pretty amongst flowers and bushes. If you like the look of the bowls maybe think about investing in a hanging gong. This will make gentle noise when the wind blows and can also look stunning in the tea house of your zen garden.

sound bowl

17. Wind Chimes

Another way to bring gentle soothing noise into your zen garden is with wind chimes which can be hung from trees or in your tea house. If you would like to stay authentic you can purchase bamboo chimes or glass wind bells.

18. Wooden Archways

A traditional wooden Japanese archway looks brilliant as an entryway for a closed-off section of your zen garden or even just placed somewhere along your path. If you have larger bushes surrounding your pond, for example, you can add the archway as an entry to separate that section of your garden.

19. Stone Fountain

Whether you have a pond in your zen garden or not, adding a stone fountain will create a beautiful tranquil trickling sound. It will also look stunning surrounded by flowers and plants or in your pond among some lilies.

20. Hills

This is a great way to explore some landscaping ideas. A lot of traditional Zen gardens have small hills to create more dimensions and make the garden flow in a more fluent way[2]. You can either create the illusion of hills with bushes or actually landscape your garden to have defined hills.

21. Koi Fish

Koi fish are a beautiful addition to a garden pond. They are traditional Japanese fish and have a range of colouring and markings. If your pond is a murky colour it is best to pick a bright coloured fish so you can still spot it. It is important to look after your Koi fish properly and make sure the water in your pond is being filtered.

22. Water Features

It is common to see water features in zen garden ponds such as structures that look like floating huts or floating Japanese style homes. You can also get Buddha and other statues that can float above the surface of your pond.

23. Stone Balancing

Stone balancing is a traditional art form in Japan. It is what it sounds like, balancing stones or rocks into different shapes. These add a great little touch around your garden and you can have hours of fun making different shapes and seeing how you can defy gravity with your stones balancing them into a little arch or other shapes. You can also add this to your sand and rake around it for extra detail.

zen garden stone balancing