Zen style Gardens

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The simplicity of the Zen or Japanese style garden contains natural & organic sculptural shapes while adding a feeling of tranquilly and peace to your surroundings ideal for meditation or relaxation. They can define natural elements but not necessary in a realistic form and are usually more suited to smaller garden layouts, but can also look great in larger gardens too.
Large natural stones or boulders can be placed around the garden on sand or gravel and then raked in a circular motion to symbolize water or ripples.
This is meant to be seen from one view point and to assist in the concentration of mind. The sand or gravel can border a lawn or flower beds, pruned trees & shrubs, moss, pond or a water feature. The layout can be based on geometric or simplistic designs, like rectangles and squares or circles which could be the shape of the lawn, gravel area or wood decking and to create a balance between them.

A Zen style pond or water feature are usually long rectangular, square or circular with large pebbles or rocks surrounding them or shrubs and trees. A large Buddha statue or a statue representing peace, angels or animals can also add to the character & beauty to

the garden as well as a waterfall, water lilies, fish or even an oriental bridge.
Bamboo, palm trees or grasses can also look stunning as a back drop or for enclosing an area of space for shade or shelter. Cherry blossoms in spring are beautiful and are often depicted in Japanese and Chinese paintings, they not only add a splash of colour but also have a lovely aromatic and delicate sweet fragrance.
A wooden pergola can also look great in a Zen style garden with plants trailing over it which creates shade for simple furniture, such as a sofa, table and chairs or a stone seat, lanterns are also lovely in the evening to create a peaceful atmosphere. Brightly coloured Lights such as pink, blue or purple can also be added to the garden in the evening to show up the trees, water feature or pond.

Alternatively you can also arrange your garden layout to feature the benefits of Feng shui , by using the correct balance of the flow of qi (chi) energy to correspond with your surroundings & to encourage good health, well being, love and prosperity, this has been practised for 5,000 years in China.

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Creating a fine gravel area in your garden with large stones spaced out upon it, swirls can then be raked over the gravel preferably around the stones to represent ripples in the water giving the impression of nature and peace to your surroundings. Succulent plants also grow well along side the gravel and can even be grown in a small pot in the office, home or balcony. Buddhist monks sit in a Zen garden to practice mindfulness & meditation and the fine gravel is raked everyday to calm & refresh the mind and to repeat the pattern.

Plants and trees for a Zen Style garden

In modern times Zen gardens or the oriental style gardens are becoming more popular and are depicted in various ways, such as simple stylised designs, peaceful retreats or artistic natural elements.
Although not many plants or trees are usually included in a Zen garden, you can experiment with various foliage to add colour, texture or plants that flower at certain times of the year. Anemone hupehensis (japanese anemone) have beautiful graceful flowers with five white or pink petals and yellow stamens in Summer to Autumn, it grows to about 3-4 ft , but can become unstable with drought or over watering.
There are about 300 species of Camellia ( low trees and shrubs) which are native to Asia, the lovely large flowers can contain up to nine petals in pinks, reds and yellows but require acid soil .
Camellia Sasangua has pale pink to bright pink flowers, the leaves are used in tea and the seeds are made into oil for cooking and seasoning.
Acer palmatum or Japanese maple tree/shrub has appealing brightly coloured leaves of greens, oranges, reds and deep purples which has a variety of leaf forms, it can look stunning as a back drop in a Zen style garden or as a bonsai.
The Eastern Asian tree can look spectacular in Spring with its fragrant clusters of pink cherry blossoms especially when it is presented for public exhibits and celebrations in China, Japan and Korea. It can be grown as an ornamental tree up to about 39 ft, although the fruit is small and bitter compared to the wild form.
Japanese water iris (iris ensata) has lovely flowers containing three large petals deep purple in the centre with stripes and a splash of yellow in Summer ideal for boggy areas or close to a pond. This plant can survive temperatures up to -20 and there are also various cultivars available in a number of colours.
Conifer tress also gives a sense of simplicity to your garden these include cedars,firs, junipers, larches, pines and yew which have interesting needle like foliage and and bamboo of various types which include small, medium to large and also a giant species which can be used to make tea, dumplings, fabric and other uses. Hakone grass ( hakonechloa) has long thin grass like leaves similar to bamboo and with a slight breeze it creates a rustling sound, some cultivars also have stripes on the leaves in white, yellow or green.

Scented gardens

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Scented flowers and leaves have many benefits for your health, well being, positive energy and also for providing beauty and fragrance to your home & garden.
Flower petals and scented leaves can be used to make perfume, essential oil, pot pourri, soap, rosewater scented candles, incense, a bouquet of flowers as well as for food and beverages. Recent research have shown that the aroma from scented leaves and flowers can influence our feelings and mood, by reducing stress, anxiety, fatigue and to improve memory and relaxation. The purpose of the flowers fragrance in nature is to attract bees, butterflies and moths, & the scented leaves to deter insects away from the plant.

Whether you choose to grow your scented plants near to the house, along a walkway in the garden which releases fragrance as you pass by, in a container garden on a patio, on steps, close to a dinning area, a pot full of herbs or grown along a wall or trellis they can bring great joy and pleasant aromas to your surroundings.
Planting aromatic lily bulbs in deep containers near to the home, or by a doorway or window box can be very inviting to your friends and neighbours with its strong sweet heavenly scent like the L. regale, L.henryi, L. longiflorum, L.casa blanca, . L. auratum, L. candidum, L. hansonii and various oriental lilies.
Scented flowers and herbs which have been cut and taken indoors to be dried in spring or late summer, are edible and can be used in cake making, tea, in desserts and drinks as well as for sachets, bath water, potpourri, dyes and candle & paper making such as marigold, violas, lavender, cornflowers and roses.
Fresh edible flowers such as hibiscus, honeysuckle, lavender, lilac, nasturtiums, pansies, citrus flowers, roses, violets and daisies can also be used for cake decoration, desserts, liqueur, mousse, salads or as a garnish. The flowers usually have a delicate flavour so it will not effect the overall taste of the food and can also look appetizing & artistic.
An arrangement of freshly cut scented flowers in a vase can not only lightens up a room with its array pastel shades or exotic colours but also emits a delightful fragrance.
Other scented plants ideas for creating more fragrance within your garden space include a Lavender hedge, sweet peas for their scented flowers or a rose garden.

A garden full of pleasantly rich highly scented plants can be captivating & uplifting, especially when they fill the air with perfume bringing tranquillity and relaxation to your surroundings while encouraging wildlife and creating a peaceful environment.

Scented plants can be grown not only in the garden by the side of a walkway, in a flower border or low growing varieties around stepping stones but they can also do well in containers & window boxes which is especially lovely grown close to a window, doorway or gate or archway
Frangipani has a very strong beautiful rich sweet fruity floral fragrance which come in a choice of pastel colours of pinks, white, yellows and oranges and is associated with love & romance which can also be used for essential oil, skin care and perfume, It originates from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, so it needs a hot & sunny position and in cooler countries it may need a green house or conservatory.
The Lily of the valley (convallaria majalis) has sweet scented delicate bell shaped flowers which is used for perfume, for bridal bouquets and has medicinal properties. In Greek mythology this plant was discovered by the god Apollo and is also the national flower of Yugoslavia and Finland. Gardenia has large white flowers with a strong sweet fragrance and is used for essential oil and perfume, it has been customary
in France to use the flower for decoration on tuxedos and suit jackets and also as a garnish for Tiki cocktails in bars in the South Pacific. but the downside is that it requires humid conditions in acidic soil as it is native to tropical regions.
The peony flowers range in shape with colours of purple, pink, red, white or yellow and some are more strongly scented than others usually with a sweet delicate rosy scent which is used in perfume, skin care, and has medicinal properties. The petals can also be used for making peony water, tea, salads, drinks and is also popular for cut flowers, and is a symbol for the twelfth wedding anniversary. Sweet peas have a rich intense fragrance & pastel coloured flowers of purple, blue, white or have two colours, the scent can range from low to very highly scented and is used for bouquets, essential oils, perfume & skin care and has medicinal properties. Lathyrus Odoratus ‘Matucana’ is said to have the strongest perfumed flowers of the sweet pea.

Having the luxury of growing beautiful & colourful fragrant flowers in your garden or in containers can be captivating, but they can also be used to add beauty and taste to your food and beverages such as syrups, cakes, iced drinks, teas, ice cream, salads, cocktails, jams, desserts, mousse, lemonade, stew, with cheese or simply for decoration especially if they are grown naturally without the use of pesticides.
Scented leaf pelaroniums like the P. tomenosum mint scented leaf, P. citronellum lemon scented leaf and P. capitatum rose scented leaf can be used in cake making, jellies, desserts, to flavour drinks and ice cubes more. Anise Hyssop has lavender coloured flowers which has a light liquorice like taste and is related to the mint family, this plant alone is said create up to 90,000 flowers which attracts bees and butterflies, the leaves have medicinal properties which has been traditionally used by the native Americans and the flowers can be used in hot tea, iced tea, salads, pies and sweets. Carnations are believed to be originated from the Mediterranean when it was described by Theophrastus an ancient Greek botanist 2000 years ago. The native colour is purple pink but are also available in colours of white, yellow, red, blue & green and the flowers and scent is often used in beer, wine, vinegar, sauces, salads, yogurt, cakes and desserts. Lavendula is a very popular culinary herb because if its very strong feminine floral fragrance which is also used for essential oil, L. Angustifolia ‘Munstead’ is the most usual lavender for its use in cooking which include cupcakes, sponge, scones, dressings, desserts, salads, buds in tea, honey, marshmallows, jam and can be mixed with rosemary in savoury dishes. Elderberry has white or cream colour flowers usually in clusters with a fruity floral scent and is part of the honeysuckle family, the berries when cooked are used to make wine, juice, dye and for the treatment of cold & flu. The flowers are used to flavour jam, ice-lollies, cake, desserts, marshmallows, honey and is used to flavour the french liqueur ‘St Germain and ‘Halland Flader the Swedish distilled spirit known as Akvavit.
Flowers which are used for food and beverages include Angelica, Bee balm, Begonia, calendula, carnations, Chamomile, chicory, Chives, Chrysanthemums, Clover, Cornflowers. Daisy, Dandelions, Day lilies, Elderflower, Apple/Pear/Plum or Citrus blossom, Hibiscus, Hollyhock, Honeysuckle, Lavender, Marshmallow, Lilac and Nasturtum.

Freshly cut fragrant flowers picked straight from your garden for an elegant bouquet arrangement for your dinning area, living room or bedroom can be exquisite especially when they fill the air with their heavenly scents while adding beauty with many colour varieties to your living space area,
Flowers such as Chrysanthemums, Sweet pea, lily, sunflower, tulips, gladiolus, roses, corn flower, peony, carnations, dianthus and gypsophila, eucalyptus and succulents can be grown from seed, bulbs or plants from a garden centre or nursery, When you cut your plant for a bouquet it is best to cut the stems at an angle so that the ends will not settle at the base of the vase and to remove any leaves and branches from the stems which will go in water, Place the flowers up against the vase and measure the length, cutting the correct size you desire, the flowers will last longer if the vase has been cleaned frequently after use with the removal of previous plant debris. Spread out the flowers evenly around the vase removing any dead blooms, the primary flowers are the ones you wish to show up the most in your arrangement such as large or colourful ones and the secondary flowers are usually smaller in size, you also need to add interesting plant leaves to create a balance of flowers within your bouquet. Place the flowers into a vase which has been half filled with water add a table spoon of sugar or mix in plant food to your vase to help to preserve the flowers for longer and it is advisable to change the water every three days.
Zinnia, which is part of the daisy Asteraceae family with brightly coloured flowers of white, yellow, orange, red and lilac, native to North & South America and is said to be the longest lasting flowers in a bouquet, followed by orchids ,carnation, delphiniums, chrysanthemums, alstroemeria and gladiolus.
Succulent types such as Scabiosa flowers that forms a rosette shape in various colours of purple, red, Pink and orange, goes well with roses in a vase. Echereria are greyish blue succulents that has flower stalks with brightly coloured rosettes which can make a bouquet look more sculptural and elegant, another is Aeanium a low growing succulent with leaves that form a rosette also know as the house leek, there are a number of species and cultivars some with dark reddish brown leaves.

Highly scented fresh flowers and herbs can be used to make essential oil from your own garden for treating a range of aliments, relaxation and massage.
Flowers such as chamomile, geranium, clary sage, jasmine, juniper berry, lavender, rose and more are made for floral scents so you can make your own face or body cream, soap, face mask, massage oil for aromatherapy or to add it to your bath water.
Collecting fresh flowers, leaves or herbs from your garden and adding them to a steam distiller with water which is heated from underneath, the steam from the plants goes through the chambers of the pot and then drips out as essential oil, it can be purchased in a range of different sizes.
Cold pressed essential oils are made from citrus fruits such as oranges, tangerines, lemons and limes which are peeled and placed in a cloth, then crushed to release the essential oils.
Maceration is when the flowers are infused in a carrier oil such as sunflower or almond, then placed into a copper pot and heated underneath for a few hours and the remaining essential oil is filtered.

Enfleurage is the oldest method where essential oils are extracted using the hot or cold method for more fragile flowers like jasmine and rose, this can be done by using a glass frame with a coat of animal fat or fatty oil, the frames are stacked on top of one another and after a few days to weeks the flowers are replaced with new ones, later alcohol is added with the fat and then separated to create essential oil.
Blue tansies are perennial herbs with yellow flowers that resemble a button in shape, the essential oil is dark blue and has a fragrance similar to apple which is great in skin care for delicate and irritated skin and making it look more glowing. It is also used as an insect repellent and to flavour sauces, omelettes and puddings & the Cherokee also used this plant for medicinal uses.
Ylang Ylang also know as the perfume tree is native to tropical Asia and is part of the custard apple family. The leaves are oval and shiny with yellow star shaped flowers which face downwards. Essential oil is pale yellow beige in colour with a custard like fragrance and a dash of jasmine & neroli, used in perfume and aromatherapy.
Jasmine meaning ‘gift from god’ derived from the Persian word Yasanen is popular for its highly scented flowers and is part of the olive family, the flowers are white or pale yellow and grows as a shrub or vine. The essential oil has a sweet exotic floral scent and is used for perfume, aromatherapy, for favouring tea and for religious ceremonies. Other flowers include helichrysun (sweet rich fragrance), bergamont (floral citrus), neroli (sweet spicy floral), rhododendrom (fresh light scent) and yallow (fruity herb).