Gardens can perform various roles but one of the most important for many people is providing a relaxing space to escape everyday pressures.
Creating a calming garden requires patience and realistic expectations. Don’t set your aspirations beyond what you can achieve or afford – Rome wasn’t built in a day!
The reality, particularly with new homes, is that many outdoor spaces are stark, blank canvases that need the owner’s input and time to evolve into a place of retreat and peacefulness.
If you haven’t done it already, take time to observe what you’ve got so you know where the sun shines, where there’s shade and what areas are affected by wind or frost. Understanding the type of soil you have is crucial for plant success too.
Thinking about the colour of plants and the effect they achieve on your emotions will pay dividends. Blues and greens are passive and calming colours, while ‘hot’ colours such as yellow and red can be seen as stimulating. Pastels are more subjective and personal choice will be the guide.
Movement of plants is another consideration. Grasses, for example, not only provide interesting texture but when they sway gently in the breeze, they can help create distracting moments where you lose your thoughts, helping to overcome mental fatigue.
The vertical structure of planting in beds and borders is important too, as tall plants can help block out distracting signs of the outside world and provide greater privacy, enhancing the sense of having a personal space and refuge.
Choosing the right height plants for your garden is worth thinking about carefully. When buying, check labels to see how tall and wide they will grow and position them accordingly, with taller plants at the back of borders and smaller ones near the front.
For some gardeners, a water feature is the centrepiece of their haven. Again, this is a matter of preference as for every peron who finds a gently babbling fountain a soothing soundtrack, there will be others driven to distraction.
One thing that is well worth getting right is having somewhere to sit that offers the most relaxing view of the garden, a place to chill out, even just for a few minutes on the most hectic of days.
Just looking at plants can help reduce feelings of stress, anger and sadness and having a seat or bench to sit down and get off the daily merry-go-round will soon prove invaluable.
Mark Lang works for the gardening-for-health charity, Thrive. For more practical tips and information about gardening for wellbeing, sign-up to Thrive’s free Gardening Club: