How to transform your garden into a serene zen paradise: 32 inspiring ideas

Looking to bring a little peace to your outdoor space? Try out these ways of creating a zen garden right at home

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Most of us want to enter our outdoor spaces and be immediately met with a sense of calm and relaxation. And what better way to achieve this than to incorporate elements of a zen garden?

With all the garden trends that come and go, finding one that works for you can be quite a task. Whether you're more into sustainable garden ideas or want to achieve the quiet luxury garden trend, it's important to choose something that suits you. 

One thing that will never go out of style? Relaxation. And with that in mind, here are 32 ways of incorporating the serenity of a zen garden into your own space. 

32 ways of creating a zen garden 

A lantern walkway

lantern walkways

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When it comes to creating a peaceful atmosphere, lighting is one of the most important things to consider. Using lanterns to illuminate your paths or doorways won't only introduce some peaceful warm lighting but the complex lantern design will also add character. 

Solar Candle Lantern LED: £17.99 at Amazon 

Solar Candle Lantern LED: £17.99 at Amazon 

This realistic-looking lantern has an ornamental design with a flickering effect LED candle inside. The lantern is waterproof and also comes with a hook so you can hang it anywhere in your garden 

Courtyard space

secluded outdoor dining area

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We love the thought of creating an enclosed space that is designed for hosting. Whether you live in the countryside or an urban area, sectioning off space can immediately create a more private and peaceful feel for you and your guests to fully enjoy. 

Bamboo privacy screens

bamboo privacy screen

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Using bamboo in your garden isn't just aesthetically pleasing - this natural material is extremely weather-proof and hard-wearing so it will withstand all the temperamental UK weather. Aside from that, bamboo is one of the best fence ideas and creates privacy without becoming an eyesore. 

Small bridge feature

bridge in garden

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This might not be suitable for all garden sizes, but incorporating a small bridge feature, whether it's functional or a simple display bridge over a pond, is a key zen garden element. Having a bridge to another part of your garden will elevate the overall look and feel of the space. 

Bamboo planters

six bamboo plants

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Having bamboo in your garden is a great way of introducing natural materials in your garden without having to commit to furniture or fencing. It's also an extremely easy plant to care for and can withstand a lot of weather. 

Allow moss to grow on rocks

moss accents on rocks and lantern

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You may usually want to scrape all signs of moss off your garden surfaces but allowing moss to grow is a super easy way of transforming your space into a zen garden. The moss provides a soothing and low-maintenance organic element to your space and will soften otherwise harsh surfaces like rock. 

Incorporate stepping stones

stone stepping stones

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You may be a little hesitant with this one, perhaps the risk of falling into a pond puts you off. But the good news is that stepping stones don't exactly have to be functional and used, they can simply be there to add an aesthetic element. If you do want to create a useful pathway with stepping stones, make sure all household members can swim! 

Warm night-time lighting

warm toned nighttime lighting

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No one wants to sit down in their garden on an evening and be met with some cold-looking, fluorescent lights. Instead, opt for warmer subtle lighting, like solar panel lanterns, string lights and lit water features. This way there is no harsh lighting that will negatively affect the atmosphere. 

Gentle water feature

bamboo water feature

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Picture this: You're sitting with your favourite beverage on a warm day and can hear the subtle trickling of water nearby. Adding a subtle water feature is a brilliant and effective way of creating an atmosphere with sound without it becoming too disruptive. After all, you don't want to bug the neighbours. 

Spiral rock display

Spiral stone display

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Looking to get creative with your garden design? Adding a fun spiral rock display is a great way of bringing a little personality to your space by creating a funky pattern with clean-coloured pebbles. You could even bring the kids in to help! 

Flowing water fountain

waterfall in garden

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Looking to drown out some noise and bring in more serenity? A water fountain is a fabulous way of bringing a lot of atmosphere to your garden without having to completely transform the way it looks. Ideal if you're looking for budget garden ideas

Add arched entryways

archway in garden

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Archways are a key Japanese garden element that can be built from various materials and with different decorative finishes. Most gardens may not have room to accommodate an archway but even bringing in symmetrical shapes where possible will have a similar effect. 

Bring in soft, leafy plants

fern plans in garden

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Whilst a lot of zen gardens will boast of neatness and refinery, adding softer greenery is also a key element. Ferns are one of the best choices when it comes to this, they're extremely easy to care for and grow brilliantly in wetter conditions. Perfect for gardens in the UK. 

Mix rock sizes and colours

red rocks in garden

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Introducing different sizes and colours of rocks is a simple way of creating dimension in the garden, in the photo above you can see large rocks mixed with gravel. This is ideal if you have large areas of land you'd rather not cover with grass or astroturf. 

Prioritise natural materials

garden with wooden elements

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A zen garden is all about cohesiveness. One way to do this is to incorporate as many natural materials as you can, this will give your space an organic natural feel that will effortlessly relax you. Whether it's bamboo, ceramics or plant life, there are multiple ways you can do this. 

Create a quiet zone

private seating area for one in garden

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Creating a space in your garden where you can escape and have a moment's peace is immensely important. This can be done very easily, whether you want to fully section off an area or keep it open to be able to enjoy all of your garden. Either way, ensure it's just for you and you have the most comfortable seat possible. 

Stick to a natural colour palette

mirror in garden

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To ensure everything you incorporate into the garden goes together effortlessly, it's best to stick to a cohesive colour scheme. For zen gardens, we'd recommend opting for neutral earth tones with cooler shades of grey, black and brown. 

Add a raked gravel area

raked gravel garden

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To successfully achieve a raked gravel display you'll need to choose gravel stones of around 6mm size. This way your lines will hold true, and the stone will be able to smoothly pass through the forks in your rake. Not only will this provide you with a rather impressive display, but it's also extremely calming for your mind. 

Stone sculptures

stone sculture in garden

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A great way to personalise your zen garden while staying on the theme is to buy sculptures made of natural materials. If you want to stick as authentic as possible then buying traditional Japanese statues is an option, however, any sculptures or decorative objects will look great. 

Ornamental grasses

decorative grass

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Ornamental grasses will not only bring in more greenery to your garden, improving the overall feel of the space but they're also an opportunity to add some quirkiness to the space. They add drama, and movement and can be used as a focal point or even woven through borders. 

Fragrant and calming plants

rosemary plant

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Adding fragrant plants to make your garden smell good is not only great for you and any guests you have over but the local wildlife will also adore it. Whether it's rosemary, lavender or white jasmine, there are so many to choose from that will also complement the visuals of the space. 

Outdoor heating

fire in ceramic pot

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Creating a zen garden isn't just about how it looks, it has to be a space you actually enjoy spending time in too. And with the unpredictable UK weather, you really can't go wrong with adding a heated space in your garden. You can do this in several ways, either with a fire pit, electric heater or even just investing in some cosy blankets. 

Choose comfortable seating

wooden seating set in garden

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No matter what aesthetic you're choosing for your garden, comfort is always key. This is why you need to prioritise choosing a furniture set that yes, fits with the theme, but more importantly that you'll actually enjoy using. It's all well and good buying the coolest-looking chair, but if you don't like sitting on it, what's the point? 

Add spa elements

outdoor hot tub

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This is a step you can skip or simply alter it to suit your budget and needs. Investing in an outdoor hot tub, whether inflatable or wooden is a definite luxury that pays off long-term. Again, it's certainly not necessary but if you can spare the money, your back will certainly thank you for it. 

Create a seperate meditation space

woman meditating in garden

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Whether you're a spiritual person or not, creating a space in your garden where you can go and think undisturbed is a real treat. Make sure the space you choose is as far away from the noise, possible falling leaves and most importantly that it's comfortable. You can make this space your own and personalise it to suit your needs. 

Maintain a well-groomed space

shears cutting grass

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Decorating your garden is all well and good but it's just as key to keep on top of its maintenance. From neatly trimming the edges of the lawn to ensuring all leaves are swept and disposed of, a zen garden can be hard work but it pays off in the end. Try to find peace in the art of keeping your garden in order.  

Large ceramic features

terracotta pot in garden

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Bringing in large terracotta and ceramic pieces can add a neutral warmth to your garden without disturbing the overall aesthetic. It's also a super easy way of adding natural elements too, just make sure you know how to clean terracotta pots as they can get rather dirty quickly. 

Grow an outdoor Bonsai Tree

outdoor bonsai tree

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Yes, Bonsai Trees are one of the hardest plants to keep alive but the feeling of knowing how to care for a Bonsai Tree successfully will certainly outweigh the stress. Just make sure you're up for the challenge of looking after this highly sensitive plant outdoors. 

Add a cherry blossom tree

cherry blossom tree in garden

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The cherry blossom is a native Japanese tree and luckily they can be grown in difficult climates like the ones we have in the UK. In Japanese culture, they are said to bring a sense of vitality and vibrancy, and they'll provide a stunning blossom every spring. 

Cover soil with decorative rocks

decorative rocks on top of plant soil

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In order to keep up with that refined, neutral aesthetic you can add decorative rocks to the topsoil of your plant pots. Not only does this give your planters a polished look but it's also great for drainage, especially in wetter areas of the country.

Add succulents

succulent display in garden

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You may associate succulents with Mediterranean climes, but adding succulents to your zen garden is an effortless way of bringing low-maintenance greenery to your space. Not only with the plants help purify the air but you can also recreate the above image and master a succulent design. 

Koi pond

koi pond

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Koi ponds are a traditional feature of Japanese gardens and can be made as big or little as the space allows. Of course, ensure you have a large enough space to safely house fish should you want to install a pond in your garden. It's best to do your research before creating a koi pond as there are a lot more components to it than a regular one. 

Emily Smith
Digital lifestyle writer

Emily joined woman&home as a staff writer after finishing her MA in Magazine Journalism from City University in 2023. After writing various health and news content, she now specialises in lifestyle and home writing where she covers all things cleaning, interiors and homeowning.