I think many people have been spending more time in their gardens over the past year, and many have been putting more thought into the design of their garden, particularly now that they are spending more time working from home. With this in mind, I thought I would share with you the book, Zen Garden Design: Mindful Spaces by Shunmyo Masuno, Japan’s Leading Garden Designer.
Thank you to Tuttle Publications for sending me a copy of Zen Garden Design to read and review. Ann is responsible for waking the neighbours at 8:00 am this Sunday morning when Phil was awake and feeling energetic and started working on our garden! I quickly sent a quiet word for him to move to a more quiet task for a little while….I love when he’s motivated, but not so loudly so early.
I’ve always dreamed of a Japanese-style garden since owning our own home. I tried a miniature zen rock garden when we first moved in but it wasn’t great when the neighbourhood cats started to visit it, so it went goodbye when we put down lawn when we had children.
We’ve had this book for about 6 months now and although we can’t afford what I’d love to do, we can start small in one corner of the garden and grow from there over time. I have half our bamboo water feature now and I’m sourcing other items and planning both short and longer-term projects to keep the whole family busy, so I’d say this book is an inspiration!
The gardens in this book have been designed by Shunmyo Masuno, a Zen Buddhist priest, whose aim is to build landscapes and gardens that inspire and leave one to feel calm and serene. Also included in this book is an interview with him where he describes his process of design from his first sketch to finished garden.
There are 3 main parts to Zen Garden Design:
- Gardens in Private Residences
- Condominium Landscapes
- Public and Private Spaces
In addition, there are also endnotes, a glossary, and a bibliography and acknowledgments which can be useful for further research.
Before long, you’ll soon find that although zen gardens look simplistic, they are actually quite complex as they take many facets into consideration. In today’s fast-paced world, it’s also important to take a little time to carve a little place for you to find some peace in your own space.
"Shunmyo Masuno understands the contemporary world to leave little time or space for self-reflection which causes people to suffer greatly."
By creating a tranquil place in your space, you are allowing the mind to have a rest and just be.
When you first open Zen Garden Designs, simply flip through and admire the large photographs of entire gardens from different perspectives, as well as ones that zero in on a particular aspect or focal point of a garden. You’ll find architects’ plans, as well as hand-drawn sketches. I find it interesting to see both of these and to see how they are then brought to life in the different views of the landscapes.
In Japan, one thing you’ll notice if you visit any of the top gardens, or really, any gardens, is the use of ‘borrowed’ scenery. The garden makes use of the sight lines around it as well. We’ll be using the trees hanging over our back fence to enhance our green space. If you’re in a city apartment, you can use ‘borrowed’ scenery, which, when done effectively, is pretty cool, too, and don’t forget; you’ll also be enhancing the views of those around you, too!
Whether you have a small courtyard or a large corporate space, there are so many things that you can do within that area. Each view around or down into it will be different and can have its own unique feel. I have seen Kyoto hotel foyers designed with such a professional and yet natural feel using rock elements along a featured wall, it left a lasting impression.
This book provides so many photographs and plan examples that you can try out in your mind’s eye. These hail from China, Indonesia, Tokyo, and Latvia, Japan, and more. Although there are 15 gardens represented, it honestly feels like dozens with the number of pictures from different vantage points.
Imagine what the feature will look like from different viewing points, such as each window that looks upon it, the garden entrance, or from the other side of the garden looking back.
I lost hours searching for materials and ideas online while going through this book. I will be keeping my eye on our local zero-waste site for free items such as rocks and plants that I’d like to add to our garden. By doing this I hope to achieve a beautiful and peaceful garden at a lower cost while rehoming items that might otherwise end up in landfill.
Here’s a collage of my inspirational ideas from the the book and the rough sketch of my first plans for our back garden, which have already been amended a time or two, as well as the start of some work.
As time has moved on and the materials I have found have turned up, plans have evolved and things are a work in progress and by next summer the space will look completely different (I hope). Keep an eye on our Instagram account to see how things shape up over the course of the summer.