Sand Gardens - "Feel Good" Gardens

Sand or "Zen" gardens are very different from what we would normally think of as a garden. You don't grow things in a Zen garden, but they do provide a place where you can relax, reflect and hopefully end up feeling better about yourself. Legend has it ZEN gardens originated in the early 1300's when Muso Soseki, a Zen priest and poet created the first one and according to Zen teachings, sand gardens are "havens of tranquility" and "reflect your inner feelings". In the western world Zen or sand gardens have become known as stress relievers and allow you to see the world in a "different light". 

Modern sand gardens are very diverse and can be as large as a multiple city blocks or small enough to fit on your desk. Whatever it's size the purpose of a sand garden is to help  make you "feel better" and become more in touch with nature.

Fortunately sand gardens aren't difficult to create and if you would like to experience a Zen garden yourself, you can make one yourself using  supplies from your local hardware or home store. Here's how to build your own (medium sized) sand garden.

Creating Your Own Sand Garden

  • The first step is choosing the proper location for your garden. An area with some shade will make your garden a more comfortable place to spend time. As well, because of the possibility of damage, try to choose a place where pets (dog's particularly) won't get in.
  • Build the frame for your sand garden from wood. Old railways ties, 4 X 4 posts or dimensional lumber will all work, you just want your frame to be able to hold 2" to 3" of sand.
  • Level the ground and cover it with landscape cloth to prevent weeds, then construct your frame on top of the cloth. Painting it in a neutral color helps create the tranquil atmosphere you are trying to achieve.
  • Now fill the frame with at least 2" of sand and rake it smooth. Believers feel the sand is symbolic of serenity and simplicity and different colors of sand (black, white, red) suggest different moods. There is no prescribed way to spread the sand, it's totally up to how you feel.
  • Adding rocks, logs and even small statues to your garden is an option as well., Just remember, you don't want to clutter your garden since you are trying to achieve a peaceful, relaxed feeling.
  • Choosing different colored rocks will add visual interest to your garden, but don't just scatter them around on the surface. Half bury them in the sand so they have the appearance of natural rock outcroppings.
  • You can create water symbolically by raking the sand using curving strokes to represent ripples and waves in the water.
  • Adding a small water feature or some colored lights in or around your garden may also help to stimulate your mind while you're reflecting in your sand garden.

Now all that's left is to take some quiet time to visit your garden and get in touch with your inner feelings.

Murray Anderson is an experienced freelance writer whose work has appeared on numerous web sites,  as well as in newspapers and books  in both the US and Canada. He has been quoted as an expert on home related topics in numerous publications including the Wall Street Journal.