A Japanese style rock garden is a wonderful landscaping idea for most home gardeners. They are inexpensive to build, cost virtually nothing to maintain, and can even help relieve your daily stress. A Japanese rock garden is also commonly referred to as a "Zen" garden. The purpose of the Japanese rock garden is to bring peace, serenity and tranquility to your life. The rock garden is a basic kind of symbolism: the sand symbolizes the sea, rocks are the islands and the rake is a means for you to traverse rocky waters.
The following steps will show you how to create your own Japanese style rock garden for use in your backyard. These same steps can be scaled down to create a personal rock garden that you could store on your desk (at home or work).
Step 1 - Framing the Rock Garden
First, determine how large you want your rock garden to be and then measure and cut the wood to suit. Next, nail the plywood to the framing wood to make a shallow box. Now, feel free to paint the box whatever color you like, and once dry, turn it over so that the plywood forms a floor.
Step 2 - Adding the Islands
Now that you have your rock garden framed out, you can begin to create your very own serenity getaway. The rocks you place inside your garden symbolize the islands in your sea. There is no wrong way to do this; it is based upon your personal feelings. When you select your islands, choose the stones that best compliment your personality. Try to combine small rocks with large rocks. Once you have selected your rocks, it is time to place them in your garden. Placement follows the same rule as selecting them, so follow your own feelings (and intuitions) on placement.
Step 3 - Optional Foliage
Traditionally speaking, rock gardens don't normally have foliage. This isn't to say you cannot place small, non-flowering plants close to your islands. This is entirely up to you and how you want your rock garden to represent you personally. After all, this is your garden and, as such, the design is up to you.
Step 4 - Adding the Sea
It is a misconception that a Japanese rock garden uses beach sand when, in fact, it's crushed granite. If you are looking to keep your costs down, you can purchase beach sand or fine gravel to make a passable sea. You add the crushed granite in an even layer that seamlessly fills in between the rocks.
Step 5 - Creating the Ripples
First, pick a spot in the rock garden where you want to begin and place the rake in that area then start moving your rake toward yourself while twisting and turning the rake in order to make ripples (until you are satisfied with them).