An Easy and Vibrant Chinese Red and Yellow Zen Garden Retreat Design for small spaces.

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Zen gardens are not necessarily a particular atmosphere and decor. There's the familiar atmospheric zen design that calms, soothes, and relaxes you. And there's a bright and exciting zen that uplifts, motivates, cheers you up and wakes your senses. 
I like both. I'm not always feeling one way or the other. I need different types of stimulus or calming on different days.

This red and yellow design has bright and beautiful colors, and combined with black in your plantings and ornamental Asian style Dwarf weeping trees, fragrant flowers and shrubs, you will cheer up after a long and trying day, and you willl be encouraged to be happy, because You've Got This. This is particularly important and overlooked in creating zen gardens.  It can be a combination of cheerful and soothing.

Use lower growing, brightly-colored and evergreen spreading plants and groundcover for the "floor", and use larger plants, shrubs, and dwarf flowering or fruiting trees in brightly colored pots as accents, and to frame or add height to an arrangement. Bamboos and weeping trees lend a feeling of movement.

I sit in my gardens in the evening. After a non-productive or challenging day, I sometimes like to be surrounded and enveloped by cheerful colors and fragrance., and symbols of abundance, happiness and success. That is why 2 zen garden areas, even if they're a small arrangement in your landscape, is desirable if you have the room. Even if you need to create 2 small nooks or quiet corners to achieve it. We all need encouragement and cheering up at times. All ornamental gardens should be seen and experienced in a relaxing manner, and seating is essential.

We all stall in our personal lives and our creativity doesn't respond at one time or another. Perhaps nobody seems to appreciate your hard work, vision and drive. All good reasons to have a garden that feels like a pat on the back. I am happy and encouraged in my zen spaces. I guarantee you'll love it. This garden can double as a festive and happy space to gather and reconnect with friends in the evening. Just add grouped seating in one of two places if the garden is big enough, subtle light, and candles or lanterns. If one area is all you have room for, make it just about you. Decorate with ornamental and useful things that you will want to have around you. 

All ornamental gardens, whatever the size, need a seating area, so that you can visit, relax and enjoy your garden.
You can use what you already have, if it's weather resistant metal resin wicker, or bamboo.. as long as it's not plastic deck furniture. That wouldd not do. Almost any garden bench can be worked into your design. The addition of asian-theme or color-coordinated cushions and asian-style accessories will instantly change your seating area into an asian style. I have 2 benches and a table. I just change the color of the cusions and arrange around it. No sense in buying new furnishings every time I change my design - i change my mind all the time.

A metal garden bench, folding backless bamboo benches, a bamboo stool, brightly-colored or black bistro table and chair... Any of these will do nicely. Set one up on the patio and put potted plants around it, if the patio is part of your plan for this garden, or set one out in the midst of the garden itself, or in an already-present shady nook. Choose whatever you like, but have reds, oranges and yellows in the cushion pattern, solid, geometric, Asian patterns or bold and primary color florals. The flowers suggested are in mostly shades of red, orange and yellow. Planters in simple and bright reds, black, oranges and yellows are beautiful. Especially if they house bamboo or jade plants.

Use Rocks. All types work. 
They're an important and essential part of a traditional Asian design.
Gravel on paths, river rocks around plants, larger flat stones flowing in a pattern within sections of the garden as accents.
Your local quarry has a "ton" of possibilities that they will deliver. Many can also be hired to place heavy rock for you. Or you can hire a landscaper to place the rock. Most rock is fairly inexpensive for use in a small garden, if you purchase from a quarry. You can purchase larger single boulders to add height to certain areas, place in any nook as potential seating, or use them to decorate around a water feature.

I use large driftwood branches among the rocks in a few spots i want to highlight. I use them in my zen gardens and I use them to hightlight my cascading fountains. Wood and rock go beautifully together. And driftwood is light enough to move around and change your design.

Climbing flower vines on trellises create a "room" facing my garden in summer

Plant in Pots
Create a portable zen garden by using big pots for your shrubs, dwarf trees and perennials. You can redesign the garen as it grows, and arrange your decorative items whenever you like without having to dig anything up. Transplanting has it's own problems. You will also eliminate the weeding, and avoid the nocturnal marauders feasting on your ornamental plants. I use mostly 14-18" pots. The pots comfortably handle my dwarf trees and spreading vines. Confining vines keeps them in control, and eliminates a lot of pruning and pulling out of spreading plants. You can grow what's considered aggressive or invasive, use stakes in the pots or decorative metal trellises. Take note that you will have to water them more often than in-ground plants, but be happy that you're saving water by spot-watering in a pot and at the root and not watering your entire landscape unnecessarily.

Add Water
Water is an important atmospheric element of any Asian or Zen Garden. There are dozens of small and beautiful solar outdoor fountains to choose from. For a red garden, choose red, orange, white, black, grey, yellow or blue. Large and shallow metal bowls filled with water and rocks is a great feature for it's aesthetics and as water for birds and insects. The sounds of a fountain or splashing from a birdbath is a wonderfully soothing sound. There are solar mini-fountain disks that fit inside the bowl of almost any birdbath. Use these in large bowls of water, as well. Birds love it.

Some outstanding ideas for flowering and
ornamental plants in your Chinese Zen Garden


- These are appropriate for any 
Asian style or Zen Garden.

 Look up your planting zone on the USDA Hardiness Map when choosing plants.
Also choose by height, width and sun exposure.

Color families are shown below.


The Reds

Red Lily


The Yellows and Whites As Accents

Spectacular Shrubs and Trees Recommended For An Asian Style Garden or Landscape

I have a few dwarf weeping cherry trees in big pots. Covered in white or pink blooms in early spring. As it matures, it weeps even more - the branches can reach the ground. I leave space to show the trunks and plants around it. Low maintenance. 
A beautiful, zen shape. They take up very little space an grow well in pots. I use them as specimen trees on either side of a long garden bench.

Ornamental Accessories and Decor

Photos: My asian gardens and public domain
Breck's, Eden Bros. Seed and Nursery Catalogs
My Collections of Vintage Botannical Illustrations


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