How to Create a Sacred Zen Space in a Garden


Zen is a type of Mahayana Buddhism that is structured around the belief that spiritual enlightenment can be achieved through meditation and intuition rather than through a reliance on faith. A sacred Zen garden is a style of garden that originates from Japan. The garden is designed with rocks intended to resemble mountains and sand that resembles movement of water. The gravel is raked frequently into patterns or whorls as part of a daily meditative practice.

Step 1

Design the garden. Position your garden so that it flows naturally out of other gardening spaces. The Zen garden should be organic in shape. You can border this type of dry garden with small ornamental shrubs or trees to enhance the appearance of an ocean and islands or mountains and fog (both of these are possible elements the Zen garden may represent). Miniature plantings adjacent to the garden can operate as a natural transition to larger plantings elsewhere in the garden.

Step 2

Choose the rocks and boulders. Select rocks that have no broken, chipped or damaged spots. They should have something of a shine and may be abrupt and sharp like a mountaintop or more tapered and soft like an island.

Step 3

Set the rocks and boulders in place. Position boulders so that you can rake around and between all of them using a small bamboo rake. Choosing the position of each boulder in your garden can actually be a very involved intuitive process and you may benefit from meditating next to the garden over the placement and orientation of each stone. Be open to moving stones until you achieve the right flow of energy and movement in your design.

Step 4

Seat your boulders. Place the rocks so they are sunk into the soil 3 or more inches and have no wobble. Small planting islands can be created around the boulders or they may be surrounded only by the gravel.

Step 5

Spread out the crushed granite. Use gravel in white, ivory or gray around your boulders. Your sand bed should be at least 6 inches deep so that you can rake furrows in the sand without encountering underlying soil.

Things You'll Need

  • Garden space
  • Rocks and Boulders
  • Crushed granite
  • Bamboo rake


  • Zen Garden
  • About Zen: Zen Garden
Keywords: Zen garden space, Japanese garden, sacred garden

About this Author

F.R.R. Mallory is a senior at UC Berkeley completing degrees in both Neuropsychology and English. She has been published since 1996 in both nonfiction and fiction, books, short stories, articles and essays. Her fiction short story "Black Ice" recently won a National Space Society contest.