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Zen in the city

Zen in the city
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First Published: Thu, Feb 21 2008. 12 19 AM IST

Updated: Thu, Feb 21 2008. 12 19 AM IST
Zen gardens are characterized by their simplicity—the absence of anything obviously ornamental or colourful. Their subtlety does not lie in the absence of anything gorgeous, but in “concealing” what is gorgeous. Here are some characteristics with which you can identify Japanese gardens:
These are gardens with intriguing arrangements of rocks, evergreen and delicate foliage, deciduous trees, dense shrubs, calm dark water ponds, gravel and steeping stones (in place of properly constructed concrete pathways)
Zen gardens are filled with dull, calm, matte textures. Weathered, moss-covered surfaces of stone and wood are left unfinished. This sign of ageing and weathering is said to respect the sense of impermanence. The moss is considered a beautiful veil cast by nature
There is a complete absence of artifice in these gardens
They are distinctly different from Western gardens. While English gardens have a wide range of flowers, reflecting a bright, natural world filled with colour, texture and scent, Japanese gardens have few or no flowers, as they are expected to reach a deeper power of sensation and perception
These gardens abhor symmetry. Unfinished asymmetry is more visible—this is a mark of respect for the beauty of the process of creation, rather than its completion
There is a delicate balance of gently skewed arrangements of rocks and trees in odd numbers. No path is straight or no two sculptures are identical
In Japanese gardens, wind is the artist behind topiary. Tall trees are shaped only by winds, and not manually
Here are some tips to create a Japanese-style garden in smaller city spaces:
Select a space (minimum area 150 sq. ft), ideally outdoors—an open-to-sky courtyard or semi-covered (with RCC or clay tile roof, pergola or translucent sheets). Indoor space should ideally have a large window with low sill height
In order to make your Zen garden look different from any other ordinary garden, you should base your design on a conscious, intelligent symbolism
Since you have a space crunch, prioritize elements that you like and use them judiciously
Sketch up the desired design, keeping various views in mind. For instance, a tall element should not block the view from the rooms
Select evergreen plants such as Christmas tree (Araucaria), Chinese grass and juniper
Use indirect light (hidden light sources)
Try and incorporate an appropriately-sized water feature
For gardens on RCC floor slabs, verify load bearing capacity, especially if you choose to use rocks and gravel in large quantities
Ensure a good water drainage system
Always keep the design style in mind. Ensure that the interior design style does not clash with it. Avoid it in combination with a classical/Victorian-period décor. Japanese-style gardens match well with a minimalist-contemporary interior style that uses non-flashy, non-glossy and organic finishes and pastel shades
Anita Kulkarni/Better Interiors
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First Published: Thu, Feb 21 2008. 12 19 AM IST