Patio doors bring the outside world closer but don’t just think green. Think Zen
After fitting French Windows you may want to turn your traditional garden into a modern, Japanese-style stone garden
Many modern homes have much smaller garden areas than older houses. Some of this is down to the cost of land but often a new house with a small garden is down to how busy people’s lives are. Whilst we have never lost the sense of creativity that comes with gardening, many people these days put low maintenance way above their imaginations. At least that was until people discovered Zen. Companies like Safestyle UK (the guys that fit all that new double glazing) are getting more and more requests to fit patio doors to garden areas that appear to be underused. When asking their customers what they intend to do with their new found, outdoor freedom they often say they want a Japanese garden.
To the older readers this might sound a little airy fairy but actually, when you explore how Zen Gardens are used in Europe then you realise that the Japanese approach is the perfect modern twist to the traditional working class backyard. It is a hard, easy to clean and maintain, social area that can be enjoyed all year round and requires hardly any looking after. All you need to worry about is how many burger buns to buy in and whether it’s going to chuck it down today (fingers crossed).
Because we have quite a long tradition of backyards, courtyards and patios the leap to something seemingly radically exotic such as a traditional Zen Garden is actually far easier to achieve than you’d expect. You only have to look back to the crazy paving days of the 1970s to realise that we are more open minded than we appear.
Perhaps we just need a few helpful tips to keep us going in the right direction.
So here is an easy to follow guide to help you explore your own creativity and produce your own little slice of city life chic in your back garden. When we began researching how to create a Zen Garden we thought that most of the stuff we’d find would be from the last five years or so. It seems like that’s how long this “ Buddha-fashion” has been around. But actually, we discovered that the first Zen Garden manual was written by the Japanese in 700AD... although the vouchers on the back of the manual were out of date, the principles behind creating the perfect enclave for mind body and soul remained the same. So, for the Crouching Tiger in you here are the points to consider from over 1,300 years ago.
a. Will your Zen Garden be a feature in the overall garden or are to going the full hog and doing the lot?
b. Don’t just plan to buy a load of stone chippings in and plonk them down. You will need large amounts of weed matting (with plenty of weed killer underneath) to keep the area “intruder” free. Better still, concrete it and then do the stones as even weed matting won’t keep them away forever.
c. Zen gardens are all about the boxed areas. Will you be using wood or stone to create the frames? It’s not a million miles aware from building a sandpit but there are many materials available. You don’t have to stick with the grey, backs, whites and blueish tones but these are the traditional Japanese colours to consider.
d. The idea of a Japanese garden is so you can sit and really zone in on a couple of features like rocks and logs, pebbles and other things. These days people are placing really interesting looking sculptures in their gardens. You can buy loads of interesting things online or better still, look up a local sculptor and ask to have a look what they’ve got – there’s nothing like having a unique piece of art in your garden. If it’s going to be expensive make sure you put it on the home contents insurance, especially if it is made of metal – you’ll regret it if it gets nicked.
e. What materials do you most enjoy looking at or touching? Do you love sand? In which case, what colour? Or do you find pebbles more relaxing? Try to keep to just one or two colours as anything more begins to lose the sense of relaxation. It is nice to mix a couple of colours and create nice geometric patterns with them. You can’t go wrong with a simple circle inside a square.
f. For sand areas the Japanese like to use a small rake to create gentle rippled patterns like water. The rake is usually left in the garden so that a new visitor can create their own pattern before sitting and quietly enjoying it. It adds a lovely sense of personal creativity every time you use the garden and is a great way to occupy the kids for a bit.
A Zen Garden viewed through a set of patio doors has a strange way of gently inviting your soul outside to sit and wash the daily stresses away. And so much better if you don’t have to worry about digging up those nettles or cutting back the brambles. You’ll soon find it is one of the few garden types that looks just as good when it is throwing it down as it does when the sun is out.