Zen garden ideas – create a calming outdoor retreat to restore well-being

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  • Any outdoor space, large or small, can provide the perfect backdrop to create a soothing retreat where you can relax, away from the outside world. Even limited outdoor spaces on balconies can benefit from mindfulness of simple Zen garden ideas.

    “Compared to the cottage-style garden and country garden, this style of outdoor space is simple and paired,” says Marcus Eyles, director of horticulture at Dobbies. “They don’t feature a lot of different flowers, creating a feeling of peace and quiet. The goal is to create a space with a modern feel – clean, clean lines are important when it comes to establishing a sense of Zen. ‘

    Zen garden ideas

    Garden designer Melanie Hick’s advice is to keep it simple: “Restraint is a key part of Zen Buddhism. Think about fewer types of plants and more. Halve the types of plants you plan to use, then double the number for each. ‘

    The look works well in small to medium-sized spaces, from pots on balconies to raised beds and patios in back gardens. It’s also easy to incorporate elements of a Zen garden into grassless garden ideas, for example by using gravel and planters. Another added bonus is that due to the simplicity of design, Zen garden ideas often require little maintenance.

    Get the look with our expert advice on Zen-style planting and the key ingredients to creating a calming ambiance – including lighting and furniture.

    1. Plant ornamental grasses

    Image credit: Dobbies

    The key to this garden look is simplicity. You are looking for a plantation that does wonders without feeling too “done”. Create a feeling of wilderness by planting herbs that don’t feel too stylish, while providing generous coverage.

    “Wider types of foliage such as Miscanthus and Pampas grasses (Cortaderia) or for ground cover then the blue Festuca glauca” advises Marcus more particularly.

    2. Encourage plants with healing properties

    Lavender pot next to a zen garden idea

    Image credit: Future PLC / Lizzie Orme

    Surround yourself with plants and flowers to boost your well-being. For an awesome immersive garden path idea, we recommend planting aromatic herbs along the edge of the path so that the scent is released as you walk past, such as scented thyme or lavender. .

    Choose plants with healing properties for flower beds and borders such as echinacea, fennel, lemon balm.

    3. Create a secluded place

    shade sail on a garden seating area

    Image credit: Dobbies

    If you are overlooked by neighbors or are in a south-facing plot, there are permanent or temporary solutions you can try to give your garden more shade and privacy.

    For easy garden shade ideas, consider masking the area with hedges, shrubs, trees, or hard landscaping, such as a wooden trellis, panels, a pergola, or a Beach umbrella.

    4. Add architectural foliage for more privacy

    courtyard garden with planted bamboo screen Zen garden idea

    Image credit: Dobbies

    Use smart landscaping ideas to make your space feel more detached from the surroundings. “Plants such as bamboo (Arundinaria) can be used to frame the outside edges of gardens or to add some privacy and create zones or areas within a space,” suggests Marcus.

    Best Advice: “Don’t plant bamboo in the ground,” advises planter Melanie Hick. ‘Bamboo is an ideal plant for a Zen garden, but it suckers and sinks and can ruin the paving. Plant bamboo in planters and pots for a nice rustling sound and a calming effect. ‘ Ideal planting advice for those with balcony gardens or small yards.

    5. Add mood enhancing undertones

    angel wings plant in a zen garden idea

    Image credit: Future PLC

    Look to add plants and flowers that will help fill your space with pleasant colors. Choose “plants with broad gray / silver foliage, such as Senecio ‘Angel Wings’ or’ Brachyglottis’ Sunshine ‘that produce bright yellow daisy-like flowers in June and July,” says Marcus.

    6. Turn it on

    atmospheric outdoor wall sconce ideas

    Image credit: Future PLC / Paul Reaside

    Think about lighting early in the planning so that it can be installed before any landscaping. A little light goes a long way at night so don’t overdo it. Ground level garden lighting ideas should be the top priority so that paths, steps, ponds and water bodies are lit safely.

    Then light up the rest of the garden in layers, from table lamps and wall sconces to hanging lanterns and string lights hanging above for the mood.

    7. Encourage wildlife

    Blue flower garden bee pollinator

    Image credit: Dobbies

    Being in harmony with nature is particularly fundamental and therefore helps set the perfect tone for a Zen garden project. Look to add flowering perennials to your planting for a winning animal garden idea.

    “To attract bees, butterflies and insects, use plants such as echinacea, butterfly bush (Buddleia) and foxgloves (Digitalis),” advises Marcus. All of these flowering varieties add an irresistible splash of color for insects.

    8. Stay green all year round

    raised litter borders with ferns

    Image credit: Future PLC / Colin Poole

    Keep your space green all year round with choices of hardy evergreen ferns. “Including slow growing tree ferns, Hart’s tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium) and wood fern (Dryopteris),” suggests Marcus.

    These low maintenance plants will welcome a green cover to your space in all seasons. Greenery is great for instantly restoring a feeling of being surrounded by nature, whether that greenery is in abundance or just a few pots – the pleasurable results are the same.

    9. Sit back and relax

    Zen garden idea with bamboo garden sofa

    Image Credit: Dobbies, Simple Serenity Bamboo Bench, £ 399

    Of course, a feeling of Zen really arises when you are at rest, so you want to create an outdoor space where you can relax. The best garden furniture is the most comfortable solution, a must for a relaxing outdoor space. But think about who is going to use it before you buy.

    Need a family space with plenty of seating? Then a sofa and chair setup or modular design that can be arranged to fit your space is worth considering.

    Or if you are planning a quiet place for two, then a double daybed or a pod style sofa may be better suited.

    The best advice: Choice of furniture that stands the test of time. Sofa-style seating can be heavy to move around, so if you’re planning a permanent installation, choose pieces that are designed to withstand the elements. Or invest in protective covers.

    10. Stay warm outside

    garden sofa next to the fireplace

    Image credit: Future PLC / Alisdair Mcintosh

    Summer evenings can be chilly, so consider a heat source to extend your time outdoors. Because a wellness garden isn’t just for the warmer months, it has to be pleasant all year round. A fireplace, table warmer or fireplace will create a natural gathering place and give your living room a focal point.

    Adding one of our best fireplaces would go a long way in making the space even more welcoming during the colder months.

    11. Appeal to the senses

    Create a relaxed atmosphere with fragrant flowers and plants that will enhance your sense of calm. Try geraniums, roses, lavender, or lemon balm.

    12. Welcome water for relaxation

    garden water game

    Image credit: Future PLC / Colin Poole

    The sound of running water is one of the most calming sounds and therefore any form of water feature or pond is a welcome idea for a Zen garden. “Remember the water. Adding a water feature is an easy way to connect with nature, ”agrees Mélanie. “Whether it’s a container basin, a store-bought bubbler, or a water dish, water is a relaxing and ideal focal point for wildlife. “

    For an easy water feature design, this modern water feature is recessed into a stone wall in a redesigned low maintenance garden nook.

    13. Install a spa

    Zen garden idea with whirlpool

    Image Credit: Future PLC / Douglas Gibb

    Create a spa-like relaxation space with the addition of a hot tub. A four-seater tub will suit the average family. You can buy a basic inflatable hot tub for between £ 300 and £ 500, with ready-made fiberglass or acrylic models costing between £ 2,500 and £ 4,000, depending on the design.

    Extras, such as lighting, audio, and water features, will cost more, and you will need to factor in installation and running costs. Custom wood-fired tubs do not need electricity, as the heating
    is seasoned wood fired – expect to pay over £ 3,500.

    The best advice: Find a sturdy, level base, such as concrete, that may require reinforcement to support the weight of a full tub. You will need access to water and electricity and the surrounding area should be clean so that dirt does not get in.

    14. Provide space to meditate

        yoga mat

    Image Credit: Future PLC / Simon Whitmore

    An essential idea for those who practice meditation at any level. “A wide range of studies show that meditation can have positive effects for everyone,” says Melanie Hick. “Make sure you create at least one small place to sit and think, perhaps surrounded by your bamboo, in view of your body of water. “

    How to make a simple zen garden?

    “When planning the space, look to create an orderly and organized structure with simple planting patterns and choose neutral and natural colors, such as lush greenery, white flowers and silvery gray foliage,” advises the Horticultural Director of Dobbies, Marcus Eyles. “Large, sculptural plants will add height and work well in groups.”

    Additional words from Liza Fazzani.