How to arrange a rock garden with your own hands – instructions for beginner designers

It would seem that setting up a stone garden with your own hands in a personal or suburban area is surprisingly simple. But this is just a first impression. The roots of this art go back to the philosophy of Zen Buddhism, according to which enlightenment of a person occurs through meditation and self-contemplation. Indeed, the magnetism of the rock garden is fascinating. And if not enlightenment, then the relaxation effect from the contemplation of the beautiful will be provided! And if there is no cottage, it does not matter. A mini rock garden can be arranged right at home or on the balcony. Want to know how to do it right? Read on.


  • The basic principles of the stone garden
  • How to create a rock garden with your own hands – step by step instructions
  • Size doesn’t matter or a few words about small forms
  • Creating artificial decorative stones for the garden

The basic principles of the stone garden

One of the names of the traditional Japanese rock garden, kaersansuy (???) literally translates as “dry water and mountains.” There are no plants in it, but there are only stones, gravel or sand, less often moss.

If you decide to set up a stone garden with your own hands “in Japanese” at your summer cottage, then you are advised to adhere to 5 basic rules.

  • Rule No. 1. The basis of the composition is unprocessed stones of different sizes, which are usually selected by color, texture and shape.
  • Rule number 2. Their number must be odd, a multiple of three or five. Most often, there are either three or fifteen.
  • Rule number 3. The stones should be harmoniously located throughout the composition and relative to the surrounding space (your site). When positioned correctly, all stones, except one, should be visible from each point of contemplation. It is believed that only a person who has reached Enlightenment can see all the stones..
rock garden diagram

Figure number 1. The classic scheme of a rock garden. The letters in the figure indicate “points of contemplation”

  • Rule number 4. Inside the composition, the stones should be arranged in groups, in each group there are three stones (the principle of the triad). Moreover, it is the main triad that should harmonize with the outer space, all the rest – balance it.
  • Rule number 5. Lack of symmetry in the arrangement of stones.
    The symbolism of the individual components of the stone garden is read as follows:
  • Large stones of different sizes symbolize mountains or islands.
  • Light gravel, small pebbles or sand – water.
  • Vertical stone – sky, horizontal – earth.
  • Following the classical rules, each component should represent one of the four elements (earth, water, fire or air). So, for example, if your site does not have a reservoir, then circles around stones will be its imitation..
Rock garden

Ryoanji Rock Garden in Kyoto (Japan)

Note to the gardener. The spiritual essence of the Japanese rock garden can be described as “the grace of simplicity” or “refinement of the ordinary.” Each viewport that opens from the point of contemplation is designed to immerse into a certain atmosphere of meditation. And each new picture that occurs when you change the place of contemplation helps to see a different meaning and models a different mood..

How to create a rock garden with your own hands – step by step instructions

The technology of laying a stone garden is simple and elegant like all Japanese. To do this, you will need “wild” stones, elementary garden tools and several hours of free time.

  • Step one. Rough land clearing

After you have decided on a place for the future garden, you need to clean the land from debris and unnecessary items. It is desirable that it be as horizontal as possible and have a rectangular shape. If there is a large slope, then it must be leveled with a shovel.

  • Step Two Layout

From the prepared area, remove the top layer of turf or soil. Depth – approximately 10-15 centimeters.

  • Step Three We strengthen the walls of the “foundation pit” formed during excavation

To do this, boards, bricks, natural or decorative stones for a small garden, laid out around the perimeter, are suitable.

  • Step Four We make filling, form the surface of the garden

At the bottom of the site we lay a “pillow” – a small layer of sand 5-6 centimeters thick. Then we fill the entire space with small gravel, gravel or gravel to the ground level.

  • Step Five Seal

We pour the prepared site with water to compact crushed stone – at the rate of 1/2 bucket of water per 1 square meter of garden.

  • Step Six We form the composition

Now it’s time to establish a composition of large stones, pressing them into rubble, so that they take a stable position.

based on a rock garden

An original flowerbed in a patio based on a rock garden

  • Step Seven. Decorative leveling.

We carry out this procedure in two stages:

  1. The upper layers of crushed stone, small decorative stone or stone chips can be combined in the form of strip-circles, diverging from large stones, simulating circles on the water.
  2. The remaining small crumbs are leveled with a large rake along the horizontal and vertical sides of the plot.

As you can see, there is nothing complicated. Using this cheat sheet, you can easily build a stone garden on a summer cottage or personal plot. If you want to learn more about the principles of laying karasansui gardens, and get to know more deeply the nuances of the symbolism of stone gardens – write about this in the comments. We promise to please you with new detailed material on this interesting topic..

Note: The spiral stone garden is a very interesting mix of a stone mini garden and an English rock garden. Settles on a regular flowerbed. Stones are laid out in a spiral, between them low-growing flowers or coniferous shrubs are planted. Such a garden will delight you with greenery even in winter.

garden in the country

Spiral garden

Size doesn’t matter or a few words about small forms

The mini rock garden is a comparatively new phenomenon in landscape design. They received special distribution on very small sites or in the yards of city high-rise buildings. To create a mini stone garden, you can use decorative flowerpots, fancy stones with a natural depression, an old trough or a wicker basket, in short, everything your imagination will allow you.

If in their homeland karasansuy gardens have a fully functional value, then in our latitudes it is rather a design element. Moreover, it can be used to design even the smallest sites. Here is one of the interesting incarnations of the mini yin-yang rock garden in a small suburban area. He, of course, departs from the principles of the traditional Japanese rock garden, but it’s so cute!

rock garden

Yin yang rock garden

Advice from an interior designer: Another trendy little thing about apartment design is a tabletop rock garden. Pebbles, sand, a box and several picturesque cobblestones – this is a simple set for a home dry garden. Yes, and even wooden rake (and even a fork) in an instant will reflect on your sand your new mood.

mini rock garden

Tabletop mini rock garden for home decor

Creating artificial decorative stones for the garden

As decorative stones for the garden, it is best to use natural stones, but if it is difficult to find them in your area, do not despair.

That’s probably all for today.

We will be glad if this article inspires you to create your own rock garden – in your country house or on the balcony, it does not matter. The main thing is that it becomes your favorite vacation spot. And may the magic of the stone bring you the most successful thoughts and the solution to all your problems. Peace and goodness to you!