Cascades Gardens for Meditation and Wellbeing

A garden for meditation and wellbeing, plant nursery and Bonsai centre. Cascades Gardens is a four acre open garden near Matlock, Derbyshire. It is a spectacular natural landscape that is filled with plants shrubs and trees, many of which are unusual.The garden has cliffs, woodland, waterfalls a ruined corn mill and old lead mine. There are many seats that allow you to sit, relax and enjoy nature.

garden talks derbyshireThis blog is an attempt to  reach out to garden visitors and fellow “spiritual pilgrims” to share information on gardening for wellbeing, mental health and meditation gardens. Sometimes I just want to express my feelings about life. I welcome the contribution and thoughts of others.

The garden is based on the principles of Japanese gardens and Buddhist philosophy. It is designed as a garden for meditation and spiritual wellbeing, a place with a profound sense of peace to relax and reflect.

The garden has taken me more than 20 years to create and has been a spiritual as well as a gardening journey. Born from personal tragedy, the garden was designed as a place for me to find sanctuary, a place to withdraw and relax after my latest adventure or business success, a bereavement, problem or failure. Nature fascinated me and was something to celebrate. I have always enjoyed gardening and been able to relax in a beautiful natural setting. I feel a deep connection with Nature and find it a profoundly meaningful and spiritual experience. More recently I have become very interested in Bonsai as a way of meditation and connecting with nature.

Gardening for meaning and purpose?

From an early age I was interested in overseas travel and inspired by Eastern culture. My life has been a continual struggle to find answers to all the deeper questions of life such as our meaning and purpose and this led me to pursuing a university degree that included Psychology and Philosophy. I have travelled the world and explored different cultures and philosophies,particularly those in Asia and the Orient.

In 1992 after a shocking family bereavement,  I was fortunate to have a private audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, which set me on the path of recovery and personal search. Later as Chairman of the Tibet Society and the Relief Fund I spent quite a few years helping the Tibetan people in India and met or attended meetings with His Holiness quite a few times. As a result I have learnt a lot about his spiritual philosophy and values.

My deep interest in Japan also led me to several visits to explore their monasteries and gardens and to learn Zen meditation.

I have tried to live life to the full but as I have grown older, I feel there is so much more to learn and understand. Much more to question and analyse. I’ve developed a strong interest in gardening for wellbeing and find it spiritually rewarding. Most of all I find I have an urgent need to pass on my experiences and lessons learnt to others, if my life is to have been worthwhile.

If you would like to book an individual or group retreat at our B&B and meditation garden, Click here for information.

Buddha seat in my Garden for Wellbeing

Entrance to my garden for wellbeing and peace in Derbyshire

View our YouTube Channel ‘Cascades Gardens for Meditation and Wellbeing’ for a wide range of gardening, spiritual and philosophical videos: CLICK HERE

Working with the Tibetan people

Meeting the Dalai Lama is one of the inspirations for my Garden for Wellbeing

Following an audience with His Holiness The Dalai Lama in 1992, Alan joined the Tibet Society and Relief Fund and later became its Chairman, and later Vice-President. He worked on Charity projects with Tibetan Refugee settlements in India and Tibetan young perople for more than 10 years.

See Alan’s ‘Tibet Alive’ YouTube Channel here:

The Garden for Wellbeing Blog

If you would like to contribute to this website with a guest blog, or comment in any way, please email me .
I welcome new ideas and debate. Check out my U tube channel, Icon at the top of this page. Look through my playlists.


I have recently discovered the meditative benefis of creating and tending bonsai trees and landscapes. We are now developing a Bonsai nursery at Cascades Gardens. Here are some notes I have researched from the internet. “Keeping bonsai is not just about gardening -it is art and spirituality combined with horticultural techniques. Creating bonsai is a challenge and enthusiasts are forever striving for horticultural and aesthetic excellence. A never-ending quest for perfection”.  Peter Chan- Bonsai Beginners Bible “Bonsai fulfils the creative urge as no other artform can. My love of nature and of trees is also satisfied by the unique blend of art and horticulture. An idealised recreation of nature is the goal”.  Harry Tomlinson- Complete book of Bonsai The practice of pen sai (bonsai) was introduced to Japan in the 12th Century. They believed that cultivating miniature trees and planting them in containers was an art form which was meditative, reflective and a harmonious way to be at one with nature. The practice of Bonsai became encompassed in the Buddhist philosophy of Zen. To be in tune with Zen there are three virtues required for successful Bonsai horticulture. The first is truth, the second goodness and the third is beauty. Although guided by human hands this should not be obvious to an admirer. Bonsai should also always be planted slightly off center so as not to block the middle point which in Buddhism is believed to be the point where heaven and earth meet. Following these principles, the trees should […]

Buddhist Society Talk – A Spiritual Journey by Alan Clements 22nd July 2020

A 1hr talk that explores our interest in gardening and the deeper satisfaction that we can get from creating our own special natural sacred space. Alan shares his own spiritual journey as his garden, Cascades Gardens, has developed over the years. Briefly reviewing “paradise gardens” and his travels to Tibet and India Alan will show pictures of Chinese and Japanese gardens from his own personal experience and touch on some of the principles underlying these oriental gardens. Alan will share how he uses Buddhist principles to create the peace, tranquillity, balance and harmony in his garden that can only be achieved by working with Nature.


I often walk past a small front garden that contains three pot plants. I’m not sure what they are but they’ve been there a few years now. The plants outgrew their pots a long time ago, they desperately need repotting. In the summer they are dry and never seem to get watered by anyone. In the autumn they are full of water that doesn’t drain away, in fact I passed by them today and they were filled to the brim with rain water. In winter, when the temperature drops, they sit in frozen water-logged earth.

Visit to Tuting Tibetan settlement, Arunarchal Pradesh 2002

Alan Clements and Eve Rotstein of the Tibet Relief Fund take a long boat journey from Dibrugarh to Pasighat on the Brahmaputra river. A long Jeep journey take sthem to the fr north of the upper Siang District close to the Chinese border. The refugees need support and are very welcoming but some are now very old since they left Tibet. The pictures of the wire bridge 300ft above the Siang river are spectacular.

Foggy Bottom, Bressingham, Norfolk

In the early 1970’s I visited this garden in it’s creative phase. Planted by Adrian Bloom this 6 acre conifer garden has developed significantly over the last 40 years to show how conifers can be laid out and under planted with great success. In 2016 I re-visited the garden and was lucky enough to meet its creator Adrian Bloom. We discussed under planting of conifer and he recommended his book Blooms best perennials One of the good things about conifers is that they show their form and texture all year round particularly when underplanted with grasses and other evergreen plants.

What to see at Cascades this Month

Flowers in Summer

  In July, many of the perennial flowers and shrubs are in bloom.

Garden Reviews

Beautiful and Soothing

“Beautiful and soothing with gifts for your eyes in every corner … and every sight shows you Nature is the great creator of harmony and balance”. Danish Lady. 2016


Quote attributed to Mandela

In her book A return to love: Reflections on the principles of a course in miracles, Ms Marianne Williamson writes. Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.


The Tao cannot be defined

“Something mysteriously formed. Born before heaven and earth. In the silence and the void. Standing alone and unchanging. Ever present and in motion. I do not know its name,
Call it Tao

Latest Garden Pictures