If you have a gazebo or pergola, it would be easy to just design within and around that space, starting with placement of your Buddhas, if you're starting from scratch. If there's an existing planting or shrubs there, place your Buddhas and plant the accents amid and around those.
The Buddha Garden

This garden can be designed in a landscape as either a full-sized garden or as a very pretty miniature garden within a larger and similar one. It can be used as a section or part of zen, serenity, yoga, Chinese, Japanese or Sants Garden.

The Buddha Garden is similar to, but not considered a religious "Buddhist" garden, which incorporates historic sacred plants, herbs and decor to create the sacred space. The Buddha garden concentrates on the attributes of The Buddha, along with herbs and plants as decor within the serenity space. Many types of Buddha would be displayed, and not all of them are Buddhist representations. The Buddha Garden would be dedicated to attributes of Buddha - in the multi-ethnic sense. Buddhist, Hindu, etc. and within that, Indian, Tibetan, Chinese, Japanese and other Asian cultural representations. The design possibilities are endless, the zen and serenity will be apparent, and the plants and colors will be perfect for use in meditation and Tea Gardens. Similar zen ideas using different concepts. I like the style because you can mix all Asian styles and symbolism to tie in with the Buddhas of differing ethnicities. And this is why a Buddha Garden is exceptionally awesome.

Thangkas

A Tibetan "thangka" is a sacred image or deity painted on silk. If you have an enclosed garden structure like a gazebo, or patio with a wall, these paintings would be stunning as symbolic decor. Many are blessed in monasteries.


Many Buddhist religions have differing representations of The Buddha.

 

Tibetan "35 Buddhas"

 This artwork depicts a gathering of thirty-five enlightened beings. The major Buddhist traditions agree that throughout thistory, there have been, and will be many Buddhas. 

After physical death, Buddhas are said to enter parinirvana, or absolute nirvana. If you had the space, displaying 35 Buddhas in your garden is symbolic, and is not far-fetched. And there are female Buddhas, as well as male.

White Tara - "Mother Buddha"
White Tara is the Tibetan female Buddha who symbolizes longevity.
Tara is an enlightened buddha who promised to always appear in the form of a female, and protect all beings from harm and fear.

To me, a Buddha Garden is a natural garden design subject, and quiet forests are the design clue. A Buddhist Garden would be much more intricate and a lot of cosmic or religious thought must go into your design. Buddha spent most of his time in gardens, and received enlightenment beneath the Bodhi Tree. Buddhist monks have stunningly beautiful and serene monastery gardens, in which to meditate and grow their food and healing herbs.

This is a sacred space in several ways, and not all of it is steeped in religion. Your space is sacred to you, alone. You may want to relax, reflect, meditate, pray, practice Yoga, talk to your plants, grow medicinal herbs. You may want it to contain a little tea garden area. Or you may just want to visit for the sights and sounds within that ground you after a trying day or experience. I like to visit my gardens at night, so ornamentation for evening sits are a must for me. You don't want to make it look or feel like a commercial spa..... but you do want to feel Physicall and psychologically pampered. For a more spa-like experience, design a Yoga Garden in a nook or secluded area of the garden. Keep the garden's main focus on Buddha and the sacred, not on activity.

Think (Asian), simple plantings, clean and geometric shapes, movement, sound (rustling leaves, fountains), color and fragrance. A little minimalism will go a long way in your Buddha garden. Keep the focus on him/her. Use bold shapes in plants and choose some plants with interesting or contorted limbs that also bear fruit or flowers. Choose dwarf ornamentals that can be potted and mobile. You can change your garden frequently, and plants will be easier to tend. Dwarf fruit trees will fruit earlier than standards, with the same size fruits.

If you have already designed a Hindu or Serenity Garden in your landscape, it's very easy to design a Buddha Garden as an extension of that, and just use the plants you have and add a few others. The ornaments you used in a Hindu Garden design work perfectly within or around a Buddha Garden. If you're starting from scratch, here's the information on how to do that. It's entirely possible to have a Hindu and Buddhist Garden design that complements and adds to each other. Most of the steps are done if you already have either one of these gardens. Other sacred symbolism that is important to you can be used, and Buddha can reside happily with sculptures and symbols of other ethnicities and religions. It's about "Oneness", and not about "onlyness". Nothing sacred to you should be excluded. Buddhas are the main subject and most of your sculptures should be Buddha, but others can be scattered around the garden and placed among the flowers.

What you'll need for the basics of the  Buddha Garden design

Choose those things that you'll love to have around you daily as ornament.

Decorative flower beds and planters, pathways made from stone, gravel, brick or wood, and features created with pebbles or sand. Driftwood or petrified wood accents here and there within the beds. Bamboo is a must. There are very beautiful non-running (clumping) varieties you can plant into the ground. I prefer beautiful stone-look, bamboo design, or clay pots for a p0rtable design. This also allows me to move the plants around according to my whim-of-the-week, and to bring some indoors for winter. Bamboo is excellent as a houseplant. Bring one indoors, along with one of your Buddha sculptures, add one of your Jade Trees and some lotus sculptures and candles, and you made your winter zen.

The Buddhas
At least two, and as many as a dozen of  Buddha statues of varying sizes, if you have a large garden, is a must in these spaces. 
You could select a variety of statues and images to enhance the look and feel of your garden. Buddha should be placed in prominent spots within your garden's design. I center a few in raised garden beds and among large bamboo plants and white irises growing en masse. Buddhas also sit partially hidden within my several Jade trees that spend summers outdoors. Some of my buddhas hold a lotus, and some have their hands in a holding position, where i place a bird figuring or lotus candle holder and candle. Imagination never sleeps in a zen garden atmosphere. Your Buddhas need not be particular to any ethnicity or religion. There are many beautiful renditions of garden Buddhas and it will be easy to choose which looks and feels best in your space.

Solar Lighting and Solar fountains
The sights and sounds of peace and nature. Inexpensive, solar-powerd fountains and lights are beautiful additions to a serenity garden. Small, non-flickering, warm light groupings of fairy lights woven in the dwarf trees and within groups of floral plantings add to the magical and relaxing atmosphere. Hanging Mason jars filled with teeny solar lights look like jars of fireflies if set to a subtle twinkle. Don't use large or color light strings. I like it... no plugs, no electricity. There are small solar path lights and hanging lanterns for tables, trees, fences and walkways. Solar fountains are awesome, cost nothing to run, and I have several types going in all areas of my landscape.

My favorite fountains are the cascading pottery pitcher and bowls types. I use floating solar fountains (these come with several different water spray attachments) in my birdbaths. The birds love it for splashing, bathing and drinking, and the sounds of all of these working together making differing subtle water sounds is soothing and welcoming. I place a floating fountain in my large, antique enamelware bowls and float a faux waterlily and pad in it. My next acquisition will be the fountains made from hollow bamboo stems that you place over the edges of pails and bowls for spilling.

Chimes, hanging bells, rain chains
A zen or Buddha Garden would not be complete without pretty windchimes (brass or wooden, Asian-style), hanging temple bells or rain chains. I use all three. I particularly like the deep, wood tones. I use the smaller brass for higher notes near the bird habitat. The subtle chiming sounds on a breeze at night in the garden are beautiful. I use copper, flower shaped cup rainchains. I cut them in half (they're 8 ft. long and designed to hang from house gutters) and I hang halves from hooks on lower tree limbs over a bed of flowers near Buddha

Candles/solar lanterns and lights
These are a must on tables, set upon stones, placed around or on Buddha sculptures, and on pathways. Floating candles can go into the birdbaths and water features. Warm white solar string lights are beautiful wound around shrubs and trees.

Symbols - Buddhist, Hindu and Asian symbols and decor look beautiful around a Buddha. On fences, poked into the ground, handing from branches. Om symbols, mandalas and lotus-shaped metal wall hangings can also go everywhere. Float realistic-looking foam waterlilies in your chosen water features. Pond suppliers carry these.

Seating for relaxation or meditation
 A must-have
No Zen, Hindu, Buddhist or Buddha garden would be complete without natural-looking wood, bamboo or stone seating that seems to blend or belong in the landscape. A simple wooden or bamboo bench, with or without a back, a long bamboo backless bench (mine are folding, and that's always a blessing in winter when i have to bring things indoors). There are single seats that you can have in garden spots where you or a visitor can just sit in peace and silence. Bamboo benches within a planting of dwarf bamboo are stunningly realistic.

Bird and Butterfly Sanctuaries
Without a doubt, butterflies, dragonflies and birds are zen creatures. Include ornamental bamboo and metal birdcages in any sizes and hang from hooks on tree limbs. Choose those that will blend in with the forest atmosphere. I've learned a lot in designing all of my gardens to do double-duty as bird sanctuaries. If you have a small bog or pond, you can grow dwarf cattails and other pretty water plants and attact dragonflies. They're not only pretty...they eat enormous amounts of annoying bugs, like mosquitos. Design a bird habitat where birds will find food, shelter, water and nesting areas. They will then take up residence and breed.

Include several bird baths and feeders. If you are going to add a water feature keep this in mind: if you will be adding bowl of water with floating fountains, you still have to be aware that depth is important - I've rescued or removed baby birds from a few until i understood that once they're wet, they cannot immediately take flight, and if your bowl is not shallow or made of slick materials, they cannot get out once they go in to drink or splash around. Place a few heavy stones inside the water feature, so that they can cling to something and climb out. Or at least dry off. I learned this the sad way. Birdbaths are designed to be the right depth for birds. Try to keep the depth at that level or less in a homemade water feature or pond.

Choose and space ornamental fencing and trellises so that small birds can't get caught within or between them.

Nothing is more beautiful and joyful than the sound of birdsong. I find it most prevalent early mornings and early evenings, after they dine.

Note: Caution About Predators - eliminate anything that is a danger to the birds you are enticing to your garden. You don't want to lead them to torturous deaths. The bird's worst and most cruel enemy is the cat. They will cruelly torture birds, then either rip them apart, decapitate them, or leave the carcasses for you to clean up. Keep your cats confined, and rid your gardens of the neighbor's or feral cats using deterrants and animal control authorities. You can trap them in humane catch-and-release methods and return them to the owner, but you are wasting your time, because most roaming cats have owners who will not confine their cats. Shelters won't take them, either, if you know who the cat belongs to. My best deterrant is my dog, and she loves birds. But cats will wait and hunt when she's not outside. My second best deterrant is my broom. Putting a bell on a cat is useless, especially in a habitat that also includes chimes and bells. The birds eventually ignore the normal garden sounds. Another predator to watch out for is the hawk. If these frequent your area, you want to chase them off. They can harm or kill small pets, as well as birds.

Create a simple butterfly garden within the habitat. Contrary to popular belief, in the 10 years my birds and butterflies have made my garden their home, i have never seen a bird chase or eat one. A proper habitat for both means that birds will eat all bug pests and the food you provide, and they will leave other things alone. The birds in my garden are well-fed, and they don't eat any of my fruits and berries, either. Growing milkweed in pots will provide everything the Monarch Butterfly needs for survival of the species. If you are as lucky as I have been, you might have tagged Monarchs visiting who are migrating to Mexico and are being tracked.

The Design and The Plants

Chinese Fringe Tree, Rhododendrons, Nandina, Camellias, White river rock and white gravel, Cedar privacy fence

I envision peaceful and clean spaces, or lush forest atmospheres for Buddha Gardens. Hardscaping is an important part. Rocks, gravel, wood. 

Achieving this atmosphere is easy, because the range of flowering, foliage, and fruiting plants you can use is almost endless. Focus on potted and "mobile" plants that can be brought indoors for winter, if needed, or to move some blooming plants into an area that is not in bloom. It's easy to find or create balance and grow many more plants by growing in attractive pots, and it is easier to care for them. You can combine in-ground shrubs or a centerpiece tree and use pots in clusters around them.

My perfect combination in serenity garden plantings would be a Hindu/Buddhist/Japanese Garden flower, fruit and foliage landscape. But the name is too long. I combine elements from all of them. Perfect in a garden spotlighting The Buddha from several cultures. It's easy to design it, because so many styles and decor fit in. Start with your idea of Zen, then build around that.

- Choose several Buddhas and ground-level sculptures symbolizing peace, prayer and goodness. Choose a variety of Hindu, Buddhist, and Thai representations.
- Choose a pergola or strategically-placed small arches, if you wish more height and structure. Adding vertical plantings  makes the garden look and feel larger, and eliminates wasted space. These are great for wisteria, honeysuckle, trumpet vine and jasmine. You can create "rooms" in the garden featuring Buddha and certain plantings, by acquiring plain metal arches to be used to enclose or spotlight several different areas. These need not be expensive. Inexpensive metal arches are available online as wedding supplies. If you would like a pergola, there are many kits for sale. My choice would be to find a local old-school or Amish carpenter and order a handmade pergola made of cedar. There are many local artisans that do landscape features, and you can have a high-quality one custom made to fit your space and desires. Support your local craftspeople. Add these at the beginning of your design, and then add the plants.
- Choose your other focal points for flower beds, the decorative planters and containers, water features and fountains. Place them where you will ultimately wish to display them. 
- To create different levels of plantings within a bed, place black or green metal plant stands that hold various sizes and heights of potted plants in clusters. Poke the legs into the ground. The plants will keep them steady and in place. Don't choose very tall stands, or a high wind might topple them.
- You can begin with an area that will be covered in stone and rock first, then choose and place the sculptures on top of rock. 
Don't do the rocks or pebbles first if you're planting in-ground plants. Get those plants in before laying small rocks and gravel. You don't want to dig that up and have them disappear into soil. These are nice to add height to areas of low bedding or ground cover plants
- If you are planting a tree or shrubs in-ground, they come next. 
- Then design plantings around them with all sizes of classy stone/clay/cement pots of flowers and plants. Use clean, bold shapes and avoid designs, except for bamboo or fern design. Be mindful of sizes and bloom periods. 
- You want something blooming or producing fruit all the time in your landscape, particular in a zen or other serenity-dedicated theme garden. Don't forget evergreens, Many have interesting shapes and grow slowly. Making them easy to keep neat. 
- Remember that in all Asian style and meditation gardens, less is definitely more, and dwarf evergreens have a place. 
- After placing plants, shrubs and trees in their decorative containers, place plants around them in-ground as ground cover if you wish, or just use gravels, wood and stones to surround them (i like that plan better). 
- Avoid using plain, water-hungry and high maintenance grass. Ornamental grasses are gorgeous and add depth and dimension. Many have feathery or wheat-like plumes. 
- Don't be afraid of using bog plants and Louisiana irises around your water features, or in damp areas. 
- Choose perennial plants and bulbs whenever you can - you don't want to replant anything in spring. I focus on white, reds, oranges and yellows in new plantings in serenity gardens.

Vining flower and foliage plants are a treat for the eyes, and flowering vines will attract birds and pollinators... those hard-working garden visitors who pollinate my garden daily and provide me with more and better flowers, vegetables and fruit all season. Vines require pruning and training to keep them in the size and shape you want. Growing them in pots with trellises in or behind them is a way to do that easily. And more varieties of vines can be grown. 

My honeysuckle and trumpet vine is grown on tall, ornate, metal trellises and wind around the trellises and metal fence panels that match. Honeysuckle is also trained to vine around an ugly back gate and chain link fence. Hummingbirds are frequentl flyers around the trumpet-shaped blooms of honeysuckle and the Hummingbird Mint i place around the garden in big planters bring the visitors a little lower down visually in the plantings. Honeysuckle is trained onto the top of my ornamental white picket fence in front of the house - tied onto stakes or fence panels with plant tape or ties. It can and should be used everywhere, even if only for the scent. They should be grown in pots. Certain honeysuckles can get out of control quickly and take over a garden if not confined to large pots. That's how i grow mine. After a little bit of training, they quickly go up and around where i tied them to, and then they fill in gaps. I keep them pruned because they grow fast and quickly scramble up structures in their path. You can't see the pots on mine once the vine matures. So i don't use expensive ornamental pots, i use pots as functional items. Honeysuckle flowers all summer and the foliage is very attractive, too. It doesn't need much maintenance except for occasional trimming or training. There are many varieties combining the oranges, deep reds, yellows and whites that coordinate very well with the design.

Feathery ferns and ivies can be planted just about anywhere to frame your garden. Foliage plants can be chosen that blend well with others - palms, bamboo and ornamental grasses all feel right at home together and add depth and texture to the garden. Fig tree leaves are stunning and dwarf fig trees add a symbolic, biblical and tropical feel to the area. And let's not forget that sweet and healthy fruit. Some varieties of fig bear fruit twice a year. And most are self-pollinating. There are varieties whose trunks and branches grow in interesting curves and shapes. These can be planted in-ground, if the variety is hardy in your planting zone, or brought inside for winter dormancy in an unheated basement, garage or shed. They can also make beautiful houseplants if brought inside before going dormant. You can have an easy to grow zen garden indoors and outdoors.

Here are a few more of my favorites suggested for zen and Asian Gardens that will look awesome in your Buddha Garden design. 
Be sure to check the USDA Cold Hardiness Map to be sure that the perennial plants you choose will grow and thrive in your region's gardens. Many can be grown indoors as houseplants, or be over-wintered until spring. Choose dwarf perennials of everything, if you can. Easy to care for, fertilize and prune. Plant in pots - skip the weeding and less insect/wildlife damage. Be aware that some plants are toxic to animals and humans, so do your homework. And if your little people or furries use your garden, put up a barrier to these plants or place them out of reach. Best plan is to keep your gardens off-limits to them. Many ornamental plants are toxic, if ingested, and some can irritate the skin. My dog doesn't chew or bother with any of my plants or disturb the garden, and she is banished from the ornamental front yard garden altogether, so I plant anything I like. 

Suggested Plants
Plant in big, moveable pots whenever possible

Design 3 or 4 "sections of the garden, and place a different style of Buddha, and a fountain or birdbath within each.

Plants and Dwarf Trees - Lots to choose from
Dwarf Wisteria Trees (not the aggressive vines)
Re-Blooming Irises, all types - i use these as backdrops for sculptures.

Dwarf Japanese Maples

Rhododendrons - yellows, reds, oranges and whites.
Peonies - Exotic shapes and fragrance, and tall stems for vases
Plumeria - this vine is not frost-hardy.
Trumpet Vines - Grow in pots because they can be aggressive growers. Considered invasive in some states. Beautiful growing in a pot in front of a tall metal ornamental trellis or over pergolas and arches.
Jasmine Vines - These grow indoors and outdoors. Exotic fragrance.
Hydrangea
Asiatic and Trumpet Lilies of all types and heights - I grow these in clusters all over the garden. I plant some in-ground, but most are in pots. They're moved from garden to garden easily. Plant some in long and shallow window boxes laid in front of, or as a square around, a Buddha and at the foot of birdbaths and fountains. Border lilies are short and can be at the front of any garden bed. or grouped around your little potted trees. You can use them at the base of the trees, in the same pot, as well.
Tropical or Hardy Giant Hibiscus - Tall, with huge flowers. Should be planted against fences or other structures, or staked in pots. These grow to 6 ft. tall, so stake and tie, if necessary to keep from falling over and breaking. Hummingbirds and bees love them and they bloom all summer and into fall. Use hardy white or red blooming varieties. Tropical varieties cannot live through a cold winter.
Golden Rain Tree
Bamboo - If you were to grow only 1 kind of evergreen ornamental grass plant, make it Bamboo. Dwarf clumping Fargesia or Rubra is best. And it's better to grow it in moveable, decorative pots. Less maintenance, and more controlled growth. These grow indoors and outdoors.
Ornamental Grasses - Dwarf Fountain Grass, Dwarf Blue Stem, Japanese Blood Grass, Carex
Elijah Blue Fescue (dwarf and evergreen), Dwarf Cattails in pots of water around water features.
Dwarf Conifers and arborvitae
Honeysuckle
Jade Tree (potted houseplant) - Display these here and there among other landscape plants in shady areas and bring indoors before frost.
Variegated Dwarf Ivies -  I use Perennal English Ivy a lot in my gardens. I grow them as pot "spillers" under bamboo and Jades, and planted in standing fern planters. I don't grow these in-ground or let them climb on anything. I don't feel like chasing Ivy around the garden.
Dwarf Palm trees. There are a few hardy varieties for northern gardeners.
Dwarf, lacy perennial ferns
Dwarf Black Lace Elderberry (Sambucus). Definite Zen feel, beautiful flower clusters and berries. Centerpiece plants that I grow in pots.
Dwarf fig, pomegranates, Japanese Honeyberry, Mulberry
Dwarf Asian pears, Dwarf Japanese Weeping Cherry Trees, Snow Fountain Dwarf Cherry trees
Dwarf Lilac
Dwarf Meyer Lemon and Persian Lime Trees
Yellow and Purple Hummingbird Mint - use with honeysuckle and Jasmine Vines for a pollinator and hummingbird habitat.
Sweetspire
Clethra (Summersweet)
Chinese Fringe Trees

Decor
Asian-Style and Tall pottery, copper, clay or stone vases -  I pour in a few bags of small gravel or stones for stability, then fill with water, and cut long branches of flowing plants to place in these. Stones in the bottom will help you to arrange stems and hold them in place. Very ornamental. Rain will usually be enough water to keep these vases filled with cut flowers. Hydrangeas, irises and peonies are stunning in these - choose Asian patterns that you like, or keep them plain and multi-sized in groupings.

Visiting your Buddha Garden will be a phisical and soul-soothing experience if it is planned well. If you plant or place something that doesn't make you happy or turns out to be more maintenance than you'd like, eliminate it. Nothing should be out of place or upset your inner harmony. Set up a pretty table in a spot with your favorite teapot and china cup, and treat yourself to your favorite herbal teas. Listen to the birdsong and take in the fragrances. Don't forget to take a trip there on warm summer evenings when the Jasmines and Honeysuckles emit their best fragrances, and your fairy lights and lanterns work their magic. If you are growing herbs in the garden, early evening and early morning are the best times to snip some for your kitchen. Whether you meditate in this space or just unwind surrounded by Nature and her sounds, serenity will be easy to achieve.

 


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