Backyard Zen Garden

Recently, Joe Hertzler spoke with Kathy Van Mullekom at the Daily Press about a backyard zen garden he designed for clients in Williamsburg. Here’s what he had to say:

The area was a completely neglected part of the yard. Nobody ever went there, except occasionally to knock down weeds. The problem was that it was visible from the back deck and from an upstairs window. The clients wanted to enhance those views and create a reason to wander through the area. Plus the owner, being the fabulous gardener she is, wanted yet another place to work her magic with plants.

The design started with two goals: pathways and a focal point. Without paths, the garden is simply a place to view from a distance. With a path, the garden becomes animated; guests are enticed through it. You know the feeling. When you see a path, you have to walk it! The garden was already spectacular from a horticultural point of view; adding paths allowed people to get up close and personal with the amazing diversity of plants.

We then started looking at what might be the focal point. We wanted something exciting enough to be worth the trip, yet relaxing and meditative. We knew we wanted some type of water feature. If I could, I would convince everyone to have water in their garden. There is nothing like it. Water attracts like a magnet.

I’m not sure how the idea for a Zen garden came about, but when it surfaced it was an instant hit. A principle of Zen is finding order in chaos, and as we designed and built the garden, we struggled with the many lines that seem to fly every which way. What we found as we worked through the project is an underlying mathematical order that organizes the space and draws it together. The end result is a garden that is energetic, yet tranquil.

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