Marin IJ Articles
November 25, 2017
One of the benefits of gardening is spending time away from the noise and distraction of our daily lives. Electronics, audio devices, televisions, phones and activities can keep our minds filled with day-to-day minutia. Designing a contemplative area in your garden can offer an escape from the daily grind and a quiet space for introspection and moments of gratitude.
How that takes shape for each person is individual and personal. However, there are basic principles you may want to consider in the design of a space just for you. These are heartfelt decisions based on your preferences.
The best way to find that area of your garden that offers you a reprieve is by spending time sitting quietly in prospective locations. Take a few minutes, sit and listen. If a neighbor’s fan turns on every five minutes or a kids are splashing in a pool over the fence, you might find that distracting. Consider a side yard or courtyard already in existence. Experiment until you find a spot that promotes relaxation.
CREATE DISTINCT SPACE
Once you’ve found your spot, look for ways to differentiate the area from the rest of your garden. Maybe that’s a curved flagstone path with a gate of sorts that says “you’re entering a distinct space.” Giving your area a sense of separation from the rest of your garden connotes a sense of “arrival” for yourself and visitors.
Most meditative gardens offer a quiet place to sit comfortably for relaxation. Whether that includes a cushion, a bench, a stool or a yoga mat on a sandy rock-laden area is up to you. Typically, sitting places are located in shady spots under trees or protected by fences. If you plan to spend time there year round, a wooden platform with a roof can keep and sun and rain from interrupting. Once you have found your little oasis, it’s time to spend some time there and let your senses guide your design.
The easiest approach is to incorporate the pre-existing natural features that support your relaxation needs. Plant selection is personal so focus in on those plants and colors that please you. Consider low-maintenance perennials and succulents that thrive in the microclimate you have selected. If lush greenery gives you peace, there are many large leafy plants that thrive in shade. Wild ginger and ferns are leafy and beautiful. Using potted plants allows you the flexibility of changing plants out or moving them around as you grow into your space.
Don’t overlook your sense of smell. Herbal combinations will give off a gentle scent. Some folks prefer to be surrounded by edibles, flowers, or medicinal herbs for their aromatherapy value. Consider lavender, sage, scented geraniums and rosemary as well as thyme and chamomile for ground cover.
Many of us live in areas where neighborhood noise is a constant. You can incorporate a water element like a small fountain or cascading stream to muffle sounds and create an ambient background for relaxation. Falling water can add a sense of cleansing or renewal and incorporates an ancient way of focusing in meditation. Some gardeners like the sounds of nature in their meditative space — so they attract birds and bees. Others enjoy the rustling of leaves and the tinkle of wind chimes.
What you leave out is also important. If a clean, open sense is what you’re after, then avoid cluttering up your area. Adhere to the principles of good garden design by massing and detailing, and using repetition with focal points. Look at the hardscape and stonework, ponds, plants that surround you. These elements can be formal, rustic, large or small. Stones, which give one a sense of strength and passivity, are favorites in many meditative gardens. Statues and objects d’art help you personalize your space.
The key to designing your contemplative garden is matching your needs for relaxation and calm with the elements you select. Have fun with it! And you don’t have to know how to meditate to enjoy your space. Just sit, relax and grow calm.