Zen Garden Design

A Zen garden, sometimes known as a tranquility garden, is one of the most delightful outdoor spaces to create and enjoy.
Creating a sensory experience that allows visitors to truly feel and become one with nature requires the careful selection and placement of trees, shrubs, grasses, flowering plants and accessories.
Characteristics of the Zen Garden
Tranquility or Zen gardens are characterized by dense plantings arranged in sculptural layers.
Traditionally, these calming spaces use an Asian-inspired theme with corresponding accessories and outdoor plants. But don’t worry about following any established rules (unless you’re a traditionalist, of course). This is your space, so choose the design style you prefer.
Whatever theme you select, consider adding a water feature. The sound of moving water is profoundly calming and it will help drown out the sounds of traffic and other distractions.
Finally, remember to include comfortable seating. Whether you prefer a bench, lounge chair or an open space in the grass, make sure you have a great vantage point from which you can relax and soak in the serene environment.
Creating Your Zen Garden Design and Landscape Plan
Begin by marking off the tranquility garden area with spray paint or stakes. Carefully note the dimensions of the space and sketch them out on graph paper or in an online application.
A quick online search will offer a variety of versatile and easy-to-use applications, including free landscape design apps to assist you in completing your design and plant inventory.
The term Zen gardens sometimes refer to so-called dry gardens or rock gardens. But your design can include anything and everything that inspires you and creates a sense of natural relaxation.
Choosing Plants for the Zen Garden
In Northern Utah, we are fortunate to enjoy a growing zone that supports many outdoor plants that are ideal for creating a tranquility garden. As you select your shrubs, flowers and trees, remember that your objective is to create a natural-looking garden that appears to have grown there on its own.
Some of the most popular outdoor plants used in tranquility gardens include ferns, cypress, holly, hosta, sedge and Solomon’s seal. Alternate perennial flowers with evergreen shrubs and annual flower varieties for visual interest. This will also allow you to make subtle changes to your Zen garden each year, depending on your mood.
Finally, cover the ground with a rich carpet of Japanese forest grass alternated with other grass varieties of your choosing, to create horizontal heights and layers.
Include plants as well that have varying heights, widths and shapes. If space permits, include shade trees to provide coolness and shelter for your peaceful refuge. Flowering vines and draping or “weeping” plants add a graceful vertical element.
Accessories such as gazing balls, bamboo wind chimes, boulders and lanterns will complete the look and feel of your calming and beautiful garden space.
For additional ideas, you can peruse landscape books or magazines, or search online for pictures of Zen garden inspiration.
Millcreek Gardens in Salt Lake City has all of the outdoor plants, accessories and tools you need for your gardening and landscape needs. Visit us today and let one of our helpful team assist you in selecting the items you need to create the perfect Zen garden.