Finding Sanctuary in the Garden

Julie M. Falk
Adams County Master Gardener

The holiday season is winding down, so perhaps you’re thinking about finding some quiet time in your life. As you ponder this winter about your garden plans for spring, it would be beneficial to think about adding a meditative spot to your garden. A meditation garden can be a refuge, a place to contemplate, to pray, or just to sit in calmness.

The meditation garden doesn’t have to be large – a quiet corner will do. You can design it to meet your individual needs, but most of these garden sanctuaries have a few characteristics in common. They tend to be sheltered spots, out of the limelight, protected from too much sun or wind. Some garden designers recommend making green vegetation the predominant color. Their reasoning is that you want this garden to present a soothing atmosphere, and be low-maintenance. It might be counter-productive to have it represent too much sweat and toil.

This corner of refuge should appeal to the senses. Shrubs or ornamental grasses will present different textures, which is pleasing to the eye. If there is a breeze, the grasses will also rustle, appealing to the sense of hearing. If possible or practical, the addition of water sounds is highly regarded. Streams or small fountains have a calming sound, and still water is visually soothing. It would be nice to add blooms that have a fragrance you like. You could choose plants for your meditative spot so that there is almost always a pleasant scent in the air during the growing season. The amount or type of color in the garden is your preference – bright colors might help you feel joyful, or you might prefer neutral colors to encourage serenity.

You can add to the atmosphere of your garden spot with a statue that appeals to your spiritual side. It could be a statue of religious significance to you, or one that you simply find beautiful for contemplation. Perhaps a bird bath would support the presence of small creatures to share your quiet time. The act of planning this garden will help you get in touch with what unique things suggest peace to you. One more consideration is the seating in your meditation garden. A bench, a wall, or even a bamboo mat if you like to sit on the ground – what would be best suited to your quiet style?

You may be a person who is soothed by gentle activity rather than complete stillness. If you have the right landscape, I think it would be neat to have one of those zen sand gardens, where the sand is raked into patterns around the rocks. Focusing on the raking action and the patterns can be a peace-generating work.

Many of us live in a place without much outdoor garden space, or we feel limited to the indoors by the winter weather. If you think about it, everything we considered for the outdoor meditation garden could be done in a corner of your living space. You would simply arrange potted plants to set aside a green but private space. You could invite texture, color and fragrance into the indoor setting. The same considerations would apply for seating, statuary or miniature fountains. You could even have a miniature zen sand garden. Indoors or out, we all need a little sanctuary sometimes. I hope you’ll find yours in a garden of your own design.

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