Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Making Mini Zen Gardens

I have always loved Japanese gardens of all kinds. I love the green, lush, mossy ones; and the restrained, dry, gravel ones; and the ones full of bridges and trees. I was inspired by mini Zen gardens I saw online—these and these—and I knew this would be a great project to do. (The Zen gardens are named for Zen Buddhism; contemplating the carefully raked gravel is supposed to assist in meditation and clarity. But not all dry landscape gardens have to be "Zen" gardens; we just called them that because that's how they're popularly known.)

There are some beautiful garden designs here that we used for inspiration. We also had several books with gorgeous pictures of all kinds of Japanese gardens. I wish we had one of these for our yard. :)

Making our mini gardens was really simple. We just poured white sand into shallow containers; any kind we could find. We used a couple pie pans and a candle tray and a ceramic baking dish and a tiny roll basket-warmer. Then we hunted for lovely and interesting rocks to include.

That reminds me of a funny story: once Sam and I were visiting a Japanese garden in Portland (or was it San Francisco? I'm not sure). One of the workers there came up and started telling us about the Japanese landscape architect who had designed the garden. He said, "The architect even had these rocks brought in specially from Japan. He said that in the United States, there were 'no rocks of sufficient age and character.'"

The guy (the tour guide, and I guess the architect too) was so proud of those ancient and venerable Japanese rocks. And they were lovely. But…afterwards, Sam and I just laughed and laughed at the "sufficient age and character" thing. As if there aren't any ancient rocks in the U.S. just because it's a relatively new country. And geologically, Japan is a much more "young" and volatile country! That architect must not have ever heard of these rocks, to name just one group that is of quite "sufficient age." Ha ha.

Anyway, we didn't worry too much about "age and character," but just tried to find rocks we liked. :) I used some from the beach in Oregon. We placed our rocks carefully (trying to pay attention to areas of rest and detail like Sam taught us) and then raked lines in the land. Some of the children added little "trees" or greenery as well.
It seemed like it would be fun to have natural-looking wooden rakes like they use in real, non-mini gardens. We saw these cute handmade wooden rakes, so we made a few of these of our own. We loved how they looked, and they made nice wide lines in the sand. For smaller, finer lines, a regular fork worked quite well too!
Daisy's was the tiniest garden. So cute!
It was really fun to experiment with different rock arrangements and raking patterns. This garden Sebby made is SO peaceful and simple. I love it.
This was raked with a fork. Then we rearranged it…
and raked with our little homemade rake.
That looked pretty, too!
We absolutely love our mini Zen gardens and we still have one on our kitchen table. It is very calming to sit and rake patterns in the sand. We can see why Japanese monks enjoy it too! :)

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