The Japanese garden is not simply nature or not simply self-created. The Japanese garden is and has always been nature crafted by man and is created with little plant material.

Zen gardens are historical Japanese gardens that date back to the15th century – traces its origins back to the first urban settlements and palaces.
The first Zen gardens were created as aids to meditation and to teach the principles of religion.

Zen gardens are known as “dry gardens”, but many Zen gardens feature islands and bridges.
Wooden bridges or stone bridges may be used to connect islands, which represent the various islands of Hindu-Buddhist cosmology
Streams and waterfalls, besides offering visual diversity to the garden’s landscape, generally refer to the notion of constant change.

Zen gardens are composed of natural elements such as stone, sand, wood and plant. Besides those, we can find man-made elements such bridges, pathways and lanterns.
Man-made elements must be made out of wood or stone, as they mean a natural atmosphere, balanced environment and peaceful meditation spot.

Zen gardens elements and their meaning:

  • Stones are the major element of design in Japanese garden due to the strong desire for eternity and stones represent the eternal element in nature. Stones also represent fertility mostly because of their phalli’s shape. Japanese garden design, stones are used in combination with other stones, or sand to imply a natural scene or to create an abstract design. The shapes of natural stones have been divided into five categories called five natural stones. The Japanese used the characters of wood, fire, earth, metal and water to represent stone elements.
  • Sand represents water and white sand itself is a symbol of purity. One of the most commonly identified elements of a Zen garden is the dry garden. Sand is swept into patterns that evoke flowing water or wispy clouds.
  • Torii Gates, fences, both in wood, and cloth banners acted as signs to demarcate paces or symbolize boundaries.
  • Plants on a Zen garden – maple tree, cherry tree, bamboo and others. The layout must be subtle and pleasing, all year round.
  • Bridges symbolize a person’s journey between the planes of existence, the multiple dimensions beyond and the place that lies between worlds.
  • Lanterns are used as symbols of enlightenment and they are one form of ornamentation. Statues of the Buddha may be present.

Nature no longer contains a divine, cosmic or mystic message for the artist to discover and then express through garden scenery. The garden is simply a stage set, artfully decorated with the latest in sophisticated and fashionable props.

Garden Design knows how to approach the Japanese garden concept, since we, as professional landscape design Los Angeles, are familiar with the Zen elements and their meaning.