“Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.”
— May Sarton
I began my quest for serenity in my garden more than 25 years ago. Consensus deemed me a “Type A” personality and just a little bit high-strung, except when I worked in the yard. Even when I cut the grass I found a peace came over me. I am not very good a relaxing so this was a real revelation for me. Over the years I have incorporated different amenities that add to the ambience in my garden. You can create a special place all your own.
Spend some time in your yard to evaluate what features you already have, then find a place to sit. Almost any spot will do. Benches, tables and chairs, and even a tree stump can be used to relax and take inventory of the new growth of the plants and trees. Decide on which area of your yard is most comfortable and peaceful to you, then begin to look for plants that add to your landscape.
When choosing plants, select a diverse group for their foliage, color, size, shape, and scent. While relaxing, the scent of familiar plants can bring a sense of peace. If you add grasses you may catch the rustling sound on a windy day. You can feature fruit trees or blossoming plants. A fragrant herb garden with lavender and rosemary to start, can be used to make calming, healing teas.
The idea of color sensitivity has been around for a long time. Choose the colors that provide simplicity and calming effects. We think of green and white as a cool, calm, and refreshing combination . The interplay of variegated green and white plants are a good match for a tranquil setting. Create a harmony of color to blend with nature or a soft gray foliage.
Next, you should select a focal point placed in the center of your serenity garden. Fountains, bridges, paths, bird baths and garden statues all can add to the interest of the serenity garden. Fountains as a focal point can be integrated into the garden in a way that creates interest without distraction.
I think scent is a great delight in the air, but not too strong a scent for your garden. While people differ in their sense of what smells pleasant, I think you can steer clear of cimicifuga, cleome or privet. There are some plants that have a universal popularity, including lilacs, roses and lavender. In your own garden you will have to decide what aromatherapy works best for your heart and mind. Peonies, with their fresh sweet smell remind me of my childhood and allow me to reminisce of days of yesteryear.
Include a sound element by adding chimes. They come in a variety of lengths, shapes, and sounds. Some you can buy at a reasonable price and others are just outrageous. Find a happy medium and display them in your garden to speak to you on a breezy day. The addition of a water element can add another layer of tranquil sound.
Your serenity garden will be a place where you can retreat to escape the electronic world — including cellphones — in which we live. Any part of the garden can become a place of peace and reflection, and it can be dedicated to a feeling of solitude and renewal. I hope these ideas inspire you to create a serenity garden of your own. Just remember whatever choices you make, you own it and it belongs to you.
Dianne Gelinas is an OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteer.