The garden of Shisen-do is simply out of this world. I would rank it without hesitation to the top 5 of Kyoto gardens: not only has it an impeccable composition, it is also fundamentally different from the mainstream of karesansui gardens. This is not a rock garden you view from a wooden platform (well, you can do that, too), but a stroll garden you are welcome to walk around in (wearing blue slippers provided for this purpose).
The garden design has a Chinese influence to it. The initial view from the temple resembles other zen gardens, but the field next to it is not raked gravel, but brushed sand. The stroll into the garden provides you a view after another, opening ever new perspectives to many parts of the garden, all harmonious and beautiful. In addition to the usual carps, this garden had magnificent butterflies and birds singing making it feel like a part of the surrounding nature.
I visited in mid-October, when the Japanese maples had just got a hint of the first autumn color. One hour before the closing time I had the garden all to myself. I took my time, sat under the pergola, breathed in the peace floating all over the place and forgot about the world waiting outside - and took a ton of photos before I left.
Shisen-do is a bit away from many more popular attractions, but absolutely worth the effort of getting there. You can take the Eizan electric railway and walk from Ichijoji station. The entrance is small and modest, easy to miss if you are looking for a big fancy gate. If you are in Kyoto for its gardens, this one is truly a must, rivalled only by Murin-an and Obai-in of Daitokuji. I can recommend my late visiting hour for extra serenity, but I have read the temple can also be busy when the season is right.