Creating A Garden Refuge

The Old House Web

Whenever you feel like you have more problems than solutions,more irritations than inspirations, you need a place to clear your thoughts.Being in a tranquil setting, provides the peace of mind to see newpossibilities. As your body unwinds, you can contemplate different courses ofaction to find a path which best meets your needs.

While gardening often refers to the growing of flowers and/or vegetables, agarden refuge is much more. Certainly, plants are part of a garden refuge, butthe main intent is to create a world where you can be free of stress while inyour refuge. Here are the factors to consider when designing a unique refuge foryourself or someone else.

Choosing the site

Some individuals will have more options than others. Someone who lives in acondominium will most likely need to pick a balcony or patio as the site. Thosewho have a yard or acreage can evaluate which area would best serve as a naturalsanctuary.

  • What is more desired?morning or afternoon sun?
  • Will it be for individual use, entertaining others or both?
  • How large of an area should it be?based on who will maintain the landscaping and how much time can reasonably be devoted to it.
  • When trying to focus on a site, are there already landscaping elements that exist which you would want to build a refuge around?
  • If you are developing a refuge for a corporation or organization, what a wonderful benefit for the employees during lunch or breaks to step outside and enjoy part of nature.

Once the site is selected, take an assessment of what is there. What do youwant to keep in terms of existing plants or garden decorations? Is there anold-fashioned water pump or the remains of a brick wall from another era thatcould be kept as a connection to the past?

Creating a focal point

Think of the garden refuge in terms of a photograph. If you were going totake a photograph when it is completed, what would you want the focal point tobe? Would it be a fountain, a magnificent specimen tree, a sculpture orsomething else? Choose what the focal point will be and then plan out from thereto fill the allotted space you have to work with.

With decisions made on the focal point and what existing elements to keep,look at the areas that need to be filled or replaced. Are they areas of sun orshade? What type of soil is in those areas: acid, alkaline, clay or sandy? Thisnormally requires a lab test. What season or seasons will the garden refuge mostlikely be used: spring, summer, fall or winter? Are there any desired effectssuch as flowers to attract butterflies or plants that will be ignored by rabbitsor deer? If you would like ideas on answering any of these questions, a goodreference book is What Plant Where by Roy Lancaster.

Building in privacy

An important step in transforming a garden into a retreat is building inprivacy. This does not mean that someone is antisocial but rather wants todevelop an experience to relieve stress. Are there any open areas where the sitecan be viewed from neighboring houses, buildings or even individuals walking by?If so, you can introduce elements to a garden that would create privacy and beattractive. Hedges make a wonderful fence and can be used in places where fencesare not allowed due to governing restrictions. If you want a fast growingdrought-resistant hedge, consider one of the varieties in the Ligustrum species(Privet). Depending on the species, some are deciduous and some are evergreen.Even when planting bare root stock from a mail-order company, Ligustrum can growthree feet in one year and should be pruned annually.

While hedges or fences can screen wide areas, consider a tree if you need toblock something tall. Select a tree that is bigger at the crown if that is whereyou need screening. Should there be a building next to you that overlooks yourentire space, consider an arbor where you will actually have a frameworkoverhead. Then you can grow grapes or some other climbing plant to fill in thelattice work.

Taking it all in

What type of activities will take place in the retreat? This will helpdetermine appropriate outdoor furniture. Most likely, you'll want to have aplace to sit down and a table to use. This is beneficial for: dining using alaptop computer meeting with a client spreading out reading materials playing aboard game writing in a journal. Because a refuge tends to open up creativity,you'll want an environment that lets you capture your thoughts as they occur.

Augmenting the scene

With the actual plants and furniture determined, what other elements wouldadd to the experience? For some individuals, bird feeders/bird baths and thesounds of chirping are a required part of the garden lifestyle. Visual interestcan be obtained with large landscaping rocks, an old-fashioned gate anddecorative fence or a stone walk way. Artwork could include a sundial, a wagonwheel or a sculpture.

Every garden refuge will be unique to the owner and can bring moresatisfaction as individuals experience a harmony in nature and a harmony withinthemselves.

This article is run with permission of Susan Vollmer at Nostalgic Garden, a company that produces reproduction early nineteenth-century gardenfurniture.

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