‘‘SERENITY” or ‘‘Meditation” or ‘‘Secret” gardens have one aim; to provide a place for retreat and to create a place where everything is serene and peaceful, a place to get away and unwind after the daily stresses of life. The great thing is that you don’t have to know anything about meditation to create serenity gardens, as it evokes the very essence of serenity, calmness on its own and all you need to do is be in it to feel relaxed and at peace.
The Secret Visualization!
Imagine what a restful garden will look like to you. Think about what you love about being in the garden in terms of relaxing and off-loading your stress. Take those memories and feelings and turn them into practical ideas of how you would like to see a personal garden aimed totally at relaxation and serenity. If any ideas occur to you, incorporate those things into your imagined garden. If you are going to share this garden with family and friends sometimes, get their ideas and imput too. Always remember that this is your personal garden; it is your intents that matter when creating a serenity garden. Design is the main thing. There is no right or wrong way; the whole goal is to make a garden that both calms and inspires you and when you open your eyes, inspires you even more.
A sense of separation from the rest of the landscape. A different surface can accomplish that, or a bit of an enclosure. The surround doesn’t have to provide total privacy, but the area needs to feel distinctly apart. Try to see this garden as an ‘‘outdoor room” a place where you’ll go to relax, rest and recline, so it will need features in it that you find comfortable, comforting, and secure. Look through other people’s gardens. What are the elements in those gardens that appeal to you as peaceful and serene ideas that you could incorporate into your own space?
Unless you live alone, your garden will be used by other people, so it’s a good idea to plan how you’ll divide your serenity garden from the regular hustle and bustle of the rest of the garden. Think about how you’ll make obvious divisions. Options include bamboo fencing, potted plants in a row, hedgerows, large palms, curtains, moveable screens, benches, a line of bushes or trees, trellises, a single wall placed strategically, even a pond can help create a sense of separation between one part of the garden or another.
Sound levels in the garden: Consider how silent it is already or whether you need to create buffers using fences, hedges or other sound-muffling structures. Sound can be an annoying hindrance or object of focus for meditation. If you find that an item is distracting because of the noise it makes, such as a noisy fountain or dangling chimes, remove them. However, don’t assume that these won’t work for you. Their constant noise may be a source of focus and peace for you, and they may help drown out traffic or neighbourhood noise.
Do Basic Ground work first: It’s best to start your imagination with conditions like ‘‘It has to fit my budget,” so you know not to go wild in pursuit of expensive, and therefore unobtainable dreams.
Start a plan
On a large piece of paper, draw an outline of how you perceive your garden, including the features you intend to add. This plan can be updated and changed as you proceed, but it’s a good idea to begin with a basic idea to work from.
Find inspiration from gardens in different parts of the world: You might find really good inspiration in traditional gardens from other parts of the world. While there is no need to follow a theme, having one can instill a sense of serenity through orderliness and focus. Think about the elements in these gardens that inspire feelings of peace and happy solitude in you. Some gardens, to consider include:
Japanese garden which could incorporate sand or fine gravel patterns, zen elements, and geometric simplicity.
A Chinese garden – this could incorporate a fish pond, overhanging trees, little bridges, tiny pagodas, natural stone sculpture (i.e. non-carved stone) and pathways.
Desert garden – this could incorporate simplicity, cacti, water-hardy plants (great for an area low in water), and a shady tree.
Traditional English garden – think of walled gardens in university towns like Oxford, Cambridge, Durham as examples.
Sahelian native gardens – this could include gum trees, look for native plants like Eucalyptus trees with fragrant scent, lots of shaded areas to cut out the heat of the sun. Eucalyptus are great for listening to the sound of the breeze as well as for their scent.
Other minimalist type garden plans including ‘‘Middle Eastern” or ‘‘Islamic” gardens.
Use structures and tree lines as sanctuary creators
In adding structures (both living and inanimate), you create beauty and functionality at once:
Plant a grove area. A grove is a lovely place to relax in or to view.
Vine arbors and pergolas are a cross between the garden space and indoor space. They can provide shelter from sun,
wind, and rain, as well as adding incredible depth and beauty to a garden space.
Courtyards. This semi-enclosed environment might be ideal for marking out your sanctuary with clarity and for creating barriers against external movement and sounds. Courtyards allow you to consider a rooftop garden; a lane way garden, and even squashed into a small space between walls as other options for placing your serenity garden.
Add a loggia, or an enclosed pavilion. Places that provide shelter from the sun and rain are ideal additions; if its too noisy, hot, wet or cold in your garden, consider building a little enclosed pavilion. The beauty of having a pavilion type structure is that you can fill it with soft furnishings such as mats, cushions, pillows to make it a comfortable sanctuary for lying and resting in, no matter what the time of the year may be.
Choose plants that inspire you. English cottage type plants are just as valid as minimalist gardens which have few, if any plants. The plants you choose can be scented, flowering, herbal, tropical, native or even desert style. The most important thing is that the plants should invoke serenity or calmness in you. If they are ‘‘fussy” plants that need a lot of effort, it’s better to leave them out or you’ll feel compelled to weed and tidy instead of meditating and resting!
Use your five senses to work out plants most pleasing to you. For instant, if you are a person who loves to touch, look for plants with lovely texture. If you love visual stimulation, you might have lots of colorful flowers. If you love fragrances, choose a range of scented plants that bloom at different times of the year to ensure that they will waft a beautiful fragrance through the garden all seasons of the year. Some of the night-flowering plants are gorgeously scented, and create a heavenly feeling on moonlit and starry nights.
Plant forms can inspire you. When choosing, look at the shapes, patterns, lines, and colors to inspire a sense of peacefulness as well as something to concentrate on when meditating (if you choose to do so).
Invest in objects that will increase the sense of serenity in the garden.
There are numerous garden-friendly items that will help create the ‘‘serenity” or peaceful feel of your garden. Ideal additions include: Sculpture – Patronise local artists whose work please you, this is a great way to support local artists as well as gaining something unique and special for your garden; even consider commissioning something with special meaning for you. And of course you can always make your own sculpture!
Water features – Water is calming and relaxing, both when it is still and when it is moving. You might consider water bowls, fish ponds, a fountain, a trickling water feature, or other items that use or display water.
Rocks – rockeries, rock sculptures, Inukshuks, and other uses of rocks can help and add to the solidity and steadiness of your peaceful garden zone.
Statues – there are many possibilities with statues; simply choose those that instill a sense of peace in you.
Lights – you can place garden lights for night time effects, before bedtime, you can go into the garden and relax. That really helps for sweet dreams and peaceful sleep.
Specific empty spaces – these are little areas which are surprisingly restful as these are places which don’t need anything to fill them.
Use eco-friendly garden solutions and products – A serenity garden is a place to be at one with nature and the Earth, it wouldn’t make sense to drown it in chemical, such as pesticides (insectides), fungicides, anti-microbials and rodenticides. If you are practicing a philosophy of non-harm, or a virtue system or precepts; using toxins can affect the quality of the serenity as well as your well-being. Instead look for the eco-friendly options to keep weeds and other pests under control within your garden, as well as using eco-friendly plant nutrient options.
Destination – often serenity gardens are positioned in a way to give a sense of arrival to the visitor. Like in a movie’s happy ending. Almost every garden has these paths, now you know why. Think about your own path. At the end, the most important thing is that you love your serenity garden and when you enter in, when you sit on the grass, or by the flowers, or fountains, you feel relaxed and find rejuvenation for your soul!
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