6 Ideas for Creating a Mood-boosting Garden Sanctuary
Turn your outdoor plot into a relaxing haven with these simple tips and tricks
If you’d like to create an outdoor space that feels as comfortable as a room in your home, it’s worth considering the flooring. A soft material underfoot can tempt you out, even before you’ve put on your shoes.
The owner of this garden had a dream of being able to walk out barefoot and be surrounded by plants. “I said, in that case, we need to build you a deck!” garden designer Pippa Schofield told us.
What makes the garden feel like a real haven is the continuation of decking beyond the usual patio. Two levels of the soft timber planks are roughly split into dining and lounging areas. “The top deck is nice for having breakfast, then, the way the light goes, the owners use the sofa and lower deck for afternoon and evening entertaining,” Pippa says.
Wooden decking was used in this project, but for added durability and ease of maintenance, you could consider composite decking. These wood particle and plastic boards look the same as the timber versions, but avoid the need to clean off mould or repair areas that have rotted.
See more of this small courtyard with year-round appeal.
When you’re designing a space that boosts your wellbeing, consider the emotional response it evokes as you spend time in it. The shapes you choose for the layout can have a surprisingly significant effect on this.
A scientific study found that curved designs increase activity in the region of the brain known to contribute to emotional experiences. This makes sense in a natural space such as a garden in particular, as there aren’t many straight lines in nature.
This garden previously had a straight-edged layout, so to soften it, garden designer Joanne Bernstein gave it a more rounded feel. The key to this was the curved path that sweeps through the middle of the garden to the sunny dining area at the rear.
“The curving path is the critical part of the whole design – it would have been a disaster to have kept a straight path,” Joanne says. “Curves are very pleasing on the eye and they also create these different proportions for planting.”
Take a tour of this small, lush retreat with secluded seating areas.
Gardens aren’t just for mowing, weeding and sitting in – it’s possible to create a journey, even in a relatively small plot. The trick is to screen off areas to evoke a feeling of curiosity and tempt you to explore.
In this garden, Paul Richards added tall plants to provide layers of screening. “As you look down the garden, you don’t see the whole thing. You have to walk through it to find out what’s there, creating lots of interest,” he says. “That’s also helped by the way the path goes from one side to the other.”
See how this small garden was turned into a wildlife haven.
Think beyond the obvious when adding seating to your garden sanctuary. As well as the usual area outside the back door, there might be one or two other places where you could squeeze in a perch.
A spot surrounded by planting is perfect, so perhaps consider tucking a seating area into a flower border. Here, for instance, garden designer Tom Howard has installed a square of decking halfway along the border and pathway. The owner can sit on beanbags beneath the shade of the tree.
Discover more about this calm, urban oasis with space for entertaining.
It’s difficult to feel completely relaxed in your garden if you’re constantly aware of being overlooked. Even if you get on swimmingly with your neighbours, there’s nothing like that feeling of simply being surrounded by plants and wildlife to make you feel tranquil.
Trees are an obvious option for adding privacy, but if that’s tricky, take a look at this garden for inspiration. Fiona Green of Green Tree Garden Design created a tropical haven for her client, Malcolm, and made use of the large, evergreen planting to screen the space.
The plants are no higher than the boundary fences, but the effect is still one of being immersed. “Malcom has a very busy job and wanted his garden to be a real haven, somewhere he could relax,” Fiona says. “It’s a very narrow space and it was overlooked by the houses on both sides, and while he got on very well with his neighbours, he didn’t necessarily want to see them when he was in the garden.”
See the before and after images of this stunning tropical garden.
While you’re planning the appearance of your outdoor sanctuary, don’t forget to consider your auditory and olfactory senses. Bring in sounds of nature by adding plenty of pollinator plants to attract bees, and hang some bird feeders to encourage birdsong into your garden.
Incorporate fragrance into your space as well by choosing plants for their scent. This garden, created by Tamara Bridge and Kate Savill for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2017, showcases the power of scent and its ability to lift your mood. For example, in one part of the space, the designers mixed the woody, peppery scent of angelica with the minty aroma of pennyroyal to create an earthy and soothing scent.
Take a peek around this scented garden.
Find out how to create a sensory garden.
Would you like your garden to feel like a tranquil sanctuary? Share your thoughts in the Comments.