When you think of a zen garden, you probably think of a large Japanese garden tucked away somewhere in the mountains. Well, at Timberline Landscaping we love opportunities to break outside of the norm and shake things up a bit! We decided to take on the challenge of landscaping a zen garden in Colorado, but not without a few adaptations to accommodate the dry climate. Traditional Japanese Zen gardens have certain elements that are “required” in order to qualify as a Zen garden.
Typically, Zen gardens have the following qualities:
Sand or gravel spread across the flat surface
This is raked into patterns with an arrangement of rocks placed in somewhat abstract representation of a larger landscape. Think of the rocks as mountains or islands and the sand or gravel representing water flowing around the rocks.
Stone Forms or Large Boulders
Place these strategically around a flat surface. Stone plays a prominent role in a Zen garden and can also be used in other applications such as bridges or stepping pads.
Simple and Sparse Plantings
Classic Zen gardens usually don’t have many plants, the key is to keep it simple and sparse. When plants are included, they are a low, spreading species. Some neatly pruned evergreen shrubs can also serve as nice accents.
Zen gardens are often surrounded by an enclosure to provide privacy and tranquility inside the garden. Check out our blog post here on planting for privacy for more ideas.
Add a Human or Decorative Touch
Human made elements are usually found in Zen gardens in the form of pathways, bridges or benches.
Enjoy the Ambiance of a Water Feature
A water feature isn’t a requirement in a traditional Zen garden, but when added it is usually some type of koi pond. More info on ponds and other water feature types is available here (Link to our blog on types of water features).
Putting a Colorado Spin on Zen
When Timberline was asked to landscape a Colorado version of a Zen garden, some changes needed to be made to accommodate our unpredictable climate and wildlife around the area. Our landscape design team used gravel in the rock garden rather than sand because our client’s location received a good amount of wind that would have blown the sand away. We also used more native Colorado plants because traditional Zen garden plants do not acclimate well to Colorado climate/weather. Deer resistant plants were selected because there are a lot of wildlife visitors in that area of Colorado Springs. We did incorporate a water feature into the design, but we decided it would be best that there be no koi, due to hungry bears and mountain lions that might go fishing for a snack. In the end a very Zen getaway with a high-country twist was very well accomplished.
Are you interested in adding a Zen flair to your landscape? Our landscape design team is well versed in creating a personal backyard oasis and our Zen Garden Pinterest board provides a wealth of ideas! Contact us today!