Australia, Gardening

In the Garden Friendly Friday Challenge

The explosive delight of a Spring flower bud opening,

a field of poppies flourishing where once there was death,

the tenacity of a weed, seizing life in a crevice, this is the gift a garden offers.

Gardens are places where life blossoms,

blissfully ignorant of dire world events.

In a chaotic world, we search for serenity, and a Zen garden can, “help erase the stresses of everyday life,” with emptiness and openness amidst a balance of natural and man-made elements.

Zen gardens are meticulously planned and contain special elements that we might include in creating our own garden.

zen temple garden
Zen temple Garden, Arashiyama, Japan

Zen Elements and Design in a Garden

Zen Gardens were created around temples to provide a quiet place for monks to contemplate. In a contemporary sense, these gardens can also be incredibly meditative for the people who visit, care and maintain them.

Japanese garden bridge in Hakone
Hakone Ninja Institute, Japan

Composed of natural elements such as stone, plant, wood and sand, a Zen Garden might also contain footbridges, walkways and lanterns that are carefully placed to contrast the balance with nature whilst still inducing a peaceful, meditative atmosphere.

The meaning of each element, and how the elements balance and interact, is very abstract and subjective; the viewer is supposed to discover his own meanings. [Wiki]

zen garden stone kyoto
Zen Garden Royal Palace, Tokyo


“The main element in a Zen garden is the raked sand bed. Properly, it should be small stones, or pebbles of granite, in irregular shapes. Round pebbles do not rake into patterns as easily.” [Wiki]

It may look plain, but a well-manicured bed of raked sand stems from the traditional Shinto belief that spirits need a purified space, of white sand, in order to make an area hospitable.

In contemporary Zen gardens, such as seen in Ju Raku En, at the University of Southern Queensland, in Toowoomba, Australia, the sand element might represent water and the raked pattern, waves.

raked sand representing waves in a zen garden
The Japanese Garden in Toowoomba, Australia

Ju Raku En is a presentation of Buddhist paradise with the celestial sea (the lake) lapping the rocky shores of the three islands where the immortals are said to dwell. The material world is the outer edge of the lake and a symbolic journal to paradise may be made by crossing one of the four bridges to the islands.


One, or more, natural-looking larger stones are often incorporated in the sand beds of a Zen Garden. They are arranged in groups to resemble islands in the sea, (raked sand); mountain tops emerging from the clouds, or sometimes represent animals.

fuji_Hakone_ japan
Mt Fuji above the clouds

Stones may also symbolise eternity, fertility and is similar to how people might look for shapes in the clouds.

Historically, the arrangement of large rocks was used as a political message and considered more important than trees.

In the gardens of the Heian period, Sakutei-ki wrote:

Sometimes, when mountains are weak, they are without fail destroyed by water. It is, in other words, as if subjects had attacked their emperor. A mountain is weak if it does not have stones for support. An emperor is weak if he does not have counsellors. That is why it is said that it is because of stones that a mountain is sure, and thanks to his subjects that an emperor is secure. It is for this reason that, when you construct a landscape, you must at all cost place rocks around the mountain. Japanese_dry_garden


Another important element in a Zen garden is a platform from where a viewer may sit, stand or contemplate the surroundings, searching for meaning.


The sand beds are typically sectioned off using a low fence or a wall. This signifies and separates the area of calm contemplation from the outside world and all its associated worries of life. Gates made out of wooden fences or cloth are called Torii and also symbolise boundaries.

zen garden

Plants in the Zen Garden

Evergreen conifer trees are popular choices and provide an elegant contrast along with lichen and moss which is encouraged to grow on the rocks, simulating nature.

torii japan zen garden

Guest Host for the Friendly Friday Challenge In the Garden

Sofia is our very special guest host for the Friendly Friday Challenge. Sofia is renowned for her stunning floral portraits and close-ups. They are a testament to her skills in, and her love of, photography. Originally from Lisbon, Sofia now finds Scotland a place where her garden flourishes, awakening as it is, to Spring’s calling.

Do check out her post here and join in with the challenge: everyone is welcome!

The Friendly Friday challenge runs for two weeks, after which Sarah at Travel with Me will post a new theme for Friendly Friday.

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37 thoughts on “In the Garden Friendly Friday Challenge”

        1. Good to hear you escaped the rising waters. Enjoy. As much as I don’t ever want to cut down a tree, when it is necessary there is something deeply satisfying about it.


          1. Yep bloody Privot, and cotoneaster which are invasive and then pruning the bottlebrushes down by half and cutting some gum which was over the powerlines. Next will be the Jacarandas, one of which is overhanging the house.

            It is immensely satisfying considering that this will make things better and not worse. Also all the mulch for the gardens.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Jacaranda aren’t as bad as those wretched Poincianas. In our previous house, we had a neighbour plant one right on the adjoining fence. Guess where it spread to….? I am with you on the Privet and Cotoneaster. Those berries self-sow everywhere.

              Liked by 1 person

  1. Wonderful post, Amanda. So close to my heart, I love Japanese gardens as you know and still learnt so much from your post. And I’ve also found new places to visit, if I ever manage to go back.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Sofia. I know you would enjoy the Japanese garden in Toowoomba. It is one of the better ones in my reach. Nothing compares of course to the authentic ones in Japan. I am hoping that next year might feel safe enough to travel there again. The Japanese really have a way of creating a calming and visually pleasing phenomenon. I hope all of us get to see it again.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Japanese gardens are wonderful contemplative spaces and I love to visit them. But at home, I prefer a less structured space, where the seasons bring changes to the colour and feel of the garden space, and where nature does its thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Letting nature does its ‘thang,’ is necessary too, Margaret and preferable where possible.
      Zen gardens are just a different experience. I suppose an oasis of structure within a city where natural landscapes are few and far between, is a great way to de-stress from the city life.
      Having said that, another advantage of increasing biodiversity within gardens or preserving a wild natural setting is the higher resilience against plant diseases and insect attack.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. There’s something especially calming about any Japanese garden and in particular the Zen ones, although I have a preference for the strolling gardens like the Arashiyama one – in fact I think that was my favourite of all the gardens we visited there 🙂 You’ve reminded me that I should pay another visit to the Japanese Garden in Holland Park which isn’t too far from me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We have a suburb called Holland Park here! Fancy that!
      Named after the British one, no doubt.
      Have we spoken about the Arashiyama temple garden before? I seem to recall you went to a different one than the photo in this post – which was close to the entrance to the Bamboo grove?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I guess your Holland Park must be named after ours, yes. I’ll do a post about it some time – I have some photos from a visit a few years ago and we are talking about going again some time soon, as it’s been a while.
        I can’t recall ever talking about Arashiyama with you. I included it in a post I did about Japanese gardens some time ago ( but I don’t see a comment from you on that occasion. The temple we visited there was Tenryu-ji which is the main one people come to see I think and yes, is near the Bamboo Grove. The one in your photo certainly looks similar but I wasn’t sure.


        1. Yes. We have been to the same garden but perhaos I was chatting to Sofia or another blogger about the larger garden at the rear of the Bamboo grove. Were there loads of tourists during your visit?


  4. Love the information and photos here. Zen gardens are very soothing, but I think almost all gardens have something going for them. These days, for obvious reasons, I’m very much taken by the colorful rambunctiousness of tropical gardens.


    1. The colourful rambunctiousness of tropical gardens! What a lovely turn of phrase, Graham!
      I used to love tropical gardens when younger. I had oodles of palms and leafy plants that grew well in the warmth, but having a smaller garden now, I like structure, orderliness and the temperature plants offer me that, and that Zen calmness.
      You are right in saying that any garden offer something and is a pleasure to experience.


  5. What a wonderful post. I try to do some kind of forest bathing every day, longer sessions in the weekends. Nature is so important for our balance and well-being. Thank you for this post.


    1. Daily forest bathing sounds intensely calming and therapeutic, Maria. I definitely agree it is importantfor our well-being. You are indeed fortunate to have a northern hemisphere forest (cool temperate) forest at your disposal.

      Liked by 1 person

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