Designing a personal retreat garden
A garden is a reflection of the gardener. Whatever is in the gardener's heart and soul will show itself in the garden. If a person is super stressed, the garden will somehow look tight. The grass will be mowed within an inch of it's life and, more than likely, any flowers planted will be placed in neat little rows. This is not a model of relaxation! Wouldn't it be wonderful to have a green sanctuary in your yard where you and the songbirds feel welcome? A personal retreat garden is not so hard to achieve. Think about the word retreat or relaxation. What images come to your mind? My first thoughts are of quiet green spaces where I can curl up in a corner with a cup of tea, enjoy the air and read a great book. By creating a a garden oasis, you won't have to spend a dime, flying, or driving miles and miles to a vacation destination; your home garden will be your destination. Your small corner of eden is right outside your door. Design this sanctuary once, put in a little upkeep every season, and you will have your own secret garden.
A garden is a lovely place to reflect on one's day. Sometimes, the more intimate the space, the better. In my opinion, everybody deserves a haven of calm where they can go to whenever they need to just get away. One of my favorite ways to relax is to sit in my garden with a cup of tea and just breathe in the stillness of the garden at dusk. Fragrance is carried on a summer breeze and the blinking of the lightening bugs in the evenings is a reminder that we are not the only ones in the universe! Contentment comes from knowing when you have enough. A garden will teach you all about what is enough.
Seating, lighting, fragrance, cool stepping stone pathways, moss or a path lined with fragrant herbs or flowers are some great choices for a green retreat. Think what it would be like as you walked along a meandering path and brushed against lavender. That would give you a delicious moment of pause. Gardens are also beautiful at night. A few strategically placed solar lights will illuminate pathways or highlight a beautiful tree. Adding a weathered wood bench under a tree lends a feel of privacy and quiet. Add a couple of large glazed planters with some sweet potato vine or other trailing plant and you've got a great garden "room".
Pathways are an integral part of a private garden. Since you will be walking through the garden to get to your favorite spot, don't overlook them. A meandering, curvy path will give a sense of whimsy and mystery; a straight and narrow path will subconsciously encourage a person to rush through a garden. What a ridiculous thing to do! I would rather meander. Pathways can be as simple as stones or slate placed intermittently to direct a person through a garden or as complex as geometric brickwork. I think reclaimed brick placed in this way lends an elegant feel to a path. Different types of mulch can be used to lay out a path including eco-friendly recycled black rubber mulch which will not wear out. Paths are pretty simple to make. Clear a space about two to three feet wide and clear a couple of feet in front of you at a time. Lay down your path material and you're done. Don't forget the curves, nothing in nature is perfectly straight.
I live on a fairly busy street, so peace, seclusion and a little quiet are really important to me. Garden elements of a private space include "natural fences" of trees or shrubs. These trees or shrubs (cypress comes to mind) can be tall for maximum privacy or of medium height. Wood or copper trellises for a clematis such as 'clematis montana' or wisteria to ramble over age beautifully and can also be used as a privacy screen. How much or little you add to your garden to get the feel of a retreat really depends on your imagination and energy.
Think of a garden retreat as a Japanese tea room. You need a place to sit and a view of nature and that's about it. Really, the more simple your design, the more effective the space will be in giving a great sence of relaxation. Stone walls come into the mix because stones are naturally cool to the touch. If you feel ambitious, build a stone wall and allow tiny flowers or moss to grow in the interstices between the stones. Maybe in the evening, place some lovely large candles along the wall to lend an air of elegance.
Think about walking in the woods, what do you hear? Maybe some gurgling water, songbirds, the chirping of crickets, or just the breeze rustling the leaves of the trees? This is nature's orchestra. We simply don't hear these sounds anymore. More than anything, a garden retreat is a subtle sensory experience. Wind instruments in an orchestra make beautiful music. Bamboo and copper wind chimes call to the elemental part of our being, our ancient rhythms that are connected to the natural world. A garden is a wonderful way to relax. Don't underestimate the power of a meditative garden.
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