CREATING A MINDFUL GARDEN - LUCY
The past year has been perhaps one of the most challenging we’ve encountered. Many people have been struggling with the uncertainty of the ongoing situation as well as being confined to their homes. This in turn has led to many of us seeking solace in our gardens to do something positive and practical that helps lift our mood. The very act of nurturing and growing a plant and watching it bloom is in itself joyful.
Gardening and mindfulness are intrinsically linked. They can both provide a vital outlet for negative thoughts and emotions. Gardens by their very nature are calming places, places to relax, unwind and reset, places for quiet contemplation. Below are my top tips for creating a mindful garden, the perfect place to recharge both the body and mind.
1. Planting For The Senses
Enhance your garden by incorporating elements that engage all 5 senses.
Sight - There are many ways in which you can create a beautiful visual display in your garden. Colour is perhaps the most obvious aspect that is seen within the garden however, there is all sorts of visual trickery that can be used to transform your space, such as planting in groups of odd numbers, creating ‘rooms’ within the garden using natural hedging or screening, planting climbers to draw the eye upwards, creating harmony by use of repeated elements or by planting different plant types in large groups to create the feeling of more space.
Good plants to use for sight include: Passiflora caerulea, Wisteria sinensis, Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’, Helianthus annuus, Cosmos bipinnatus, Allium ‘Purple Sensation’, Dahlia cvs
Scent - It can be easy to overlook the sights and sounds in the garden, particularly when you are caught up in your own thoughts but it is much harder to ignore a fragrance. Scent can be extremely powerful and certain smells can bring with them a sense of nostalgia, immediately evoking memories and feelings that transport you back to happy times in your life.
A wonderful fragrance can also make you want to stop, get closer to the plant and breath in deeply. In doing this you are looking at the plant more closely and perhaps feeling the petals/foliage against your skin. You are also close enough to hear sounds such as the buzz of the bees moving from flower to flower. In that moment you are awakening your senses and taking the opportunity to refocus your mind on the present moment.
Good plants to use for scent include: Jasminum officinale, Lonicera fragrantissima, Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’, Sarcococca confusa, Lathyrus odoratus, Cosmos astrosanguineus, Rosa ‘Gertrude Jekyll’
Sound - Sounds may come from various sources such as water which can offer a range of relaxing sounds and offer a pleasant background noise to mask any unwanted noise in the garden. The weather has a huge impact on the type of sound and how loud it is from wind rustling leaves to stormy weather causing tree branches to creak.
Many plants themselves create sound such as ornamental grasses or weeping trees that make a rustling noise as they sway or poppies and love-in-a-mist which have seed pods that rattle in the wind or when shaken.
There is also the noise made by wildlife. The gentle buzzing of the bees and birdsong which makes us mindful of their presence in the garden. Lastly we can tune in to the noise we make ourselves when gardening. The crunching our feet make on fallen leaves or on a gravel path, the scratching of a rake or the snip of the secateurs as we go about our garden tasks.
Good plants to use for sound include: Garrya elliptica, Fagus sylvatica, Stipa tenuissima, Nigella damascena, Papaver somniferum, Miscanthus sinensis, Cortaderia selloana
Touch - There are many plants in the garden that are extremely tactile all with different textures; smooth, rough, velvety, fluffy, knobbly - the list goes on. There are also those plants that are not so inviting, those that have sharp thorns or scratchy stems and leaves. Some plants are sensitive to touch and may fold their leaves at the slightest tap.
As with scented plants it is best to put plants that are inviting to touch within easy reach, for example at the edges of borders or along pathways. The subject of touch also extends to other elements of garden design for example, when laying a pathway consider how it will feel under foot as well as how it will look. Consider what materials you are using in the garden for example, in any seating areas - what will it feel like to sit on?
Good plants to use for touch include: Acer griseum, Prunus serrula, Salix caprea, Clematis vitalba, Stachys byzantia, Stipa pennata, Lagurus ovatus,
Taste - You may think that this one is reserved for those who are lucky enough to have an allotment or a big garden with room for a vegetable patch but not so. Edibles can be grown in a range of spaces with many varieties being able to be grown in pots or even hanging baskets. Even if you don’t have a garden herbs can be grown on a windowsill. Eating home grown produce is more likely to encourage mindful eating as we don’t want to ‘wolf down’ our food but savour it because we put the time and effort into growing it. Many ornamental plants such as Trapaeolum majus, Calendula officinalis and Centaurea cyanus are also edible so it’s possible to apply this sense when wandering around most gardens.
Good plants to use for taste include: Centaurea cyanus, Tropaeolum majus, Viola cvs, Vaccinium corymbosum, Solanum lycopersicum, Pisum sativum, Cucumis sativus
2. Use of Water
There is no doubt that the presence of water in a mindful garden is beneficial. So many people find the sound of moving water restful and relaxing. Still water encourages us to be quiet and observant - an act of mindfulness in itself. Reflections in still water are soothing and allow us to observe things as they are, to bring us back into the present moment. The addition of a water feature such as a pond, fountain, stream, rill, reflection or pebble pool will provide sensory stimulation through sound and a place for quiet contemplation which can help calm the mind and heal us.
3. Creating a Haven for Wildlife
Taking time to sit and watch the wildlife in your garden is a great way to be mindful. Watching birds on a bird feeder, bees buzzing from flower to flower or butterflies flitting across the garden not only focuses our attention but can also hold it for a while. In those moments we become completely present in the garden.
Creating a mindful garden for wildlife is twofold. Firstly, the more you plant to encourage wildlife the greater diversity of birds, bees, butterflies and bugs you will attract and the more there will be to observe and be mindful of. Secondly, you will create an ecosystem attracting natural predators that will keep pests away.
There are several ways you can encourage wildlife into your garden.
▪️Plant to attract wildlife. There are plenty of beautiful plants that can be used to attract a variety of different species of wildlife such as Succisa pratensis, Cosmos bipinnatus, Lavandula angustifolia, Verbena bonariensis and Buddleja davidii to name but a few.
▪️Provide nesting boxes, feeding stations and water for birds. Make sure nesting boxes are installed somewhere that provides natural protection and remember to keep feeders clean and topped up.
▪️Install bug boxes or old bamboo canes as nesting sites for solitary bees and other bugs.
▪️Leave a corner of the garden untidied for insects to make their homes.
▪️Install a wildlife pond. This will help to attract a variety of different species including frogs that will eat everyone’s favourite garden pest - slugs! Ensure your pond has gently sloping sides to allow wildlife to enter and exit easily.
▪️ Create a corridor for animals such as hedgehogs by making a small hole at the bottom of fences on each boundary.
▪️Don’t cut back old seedheads straight away, leave them over winter as a food source for birds.
4. Use of colour
The use of colour in a mindful garden is extremely important. Colour is one of the first things you see when you enter the garden so it’s important to make sure that the colours you choose make you feel happy, calm and relaxed. Colour is one of the most powerful tools at our disposal when planning a garden. Colour evokes mood, greatly affects atmosphere and can be used to create a specific ambience. Warm colours such as reds, oranges and yellows energise, enliven and excite mood. Cool colours such as blues, greens and mauves are tranquil, restful shades.
Think about how you use your garden. A mindful garden or mindful corner of the garden will definitely benefit from the use of cool colours however, you may wish to choose a more vibrant colour palette for areas of the garden used as family spaces or as a space for entertaining. Use of colour in the garden is subjective, everyone sees it differently and you should use it in a way that makes you happy.
There are many ways in which we can make our gardens more mindful spaces. The important thing to remember is that your garden is your space to create whatever you like, however you like. If you are going to be more mindful in the garden then it should evoke feelings of happiness when you look at it. Above all remember to have fun and enjoy the process of creating your haven!
Follow Lucy on Instagram @mindful.gardener