A garden should be a place of comfort. A place where you can have a quiet moment and let your worries slip away. When you catch sight of your garden through a window, your spirits should lift and your shoulders drop.
So, how to achieve this oasis of calm in your back yard? The first thing is to de-clutter. This is especially important for those glimpsed views of the garden from inside the house. Looking through a window to see a tangle of bicycles and clutter of tools is the opposite of uplifting. So prioritise garden storage. If possible, spread the storage around the garden and create storage areas near where you use things. Put the bicycle rack down the side path, place a garden storage box for frequently used tools near the flower bed. A largish shed can get chaotic quickly. Having different storage spots for tools, equipment, pots and so forth helps you get more organised.
An easy way to get started with de-cluttering is to clear the sightlines from the main windows, out of sight is out of mind! If possible, create a focal point that will draw the eye when you are standing at the window. It could be a bench, pot full of plants or a plant that looks beautiful all year round.
Most gardens have several pots. I have a lot of pots. I plant them with hundreds of bulbs for a blast of spring colour and later replace the bulbs with summer bedding or salad crops. But a motley collection of mismatched pots scattered at random around the garden looks disorganised. Pots work best if they are clustered together to create a group. Ideally the pots will be different sizes so you can create a group with some height. Place one pot on an upside down empty pot to create height if you don’t have different sizes. A line of matching pots running down steps always looks good. If possible, use pots made from the same materials. It creates a unity that will pull the garden together.
A garden is a chance to connect with nature and should be our window on the seasons. Connecting to the passage of the seasons grounds us and connects us with a deeper rhythm. As winter moves into spring we can watch the new life unfold in the garden on an almost daily basis. Summer is a glorious rush of flowers followed by the vibrance of autumn. Each season should have its star performer, plants that will create a spectacle for at least a couple of months. You might think winter is the hardest season to find a star plant but there is plenty of choice. Ideally, your winter star should be visible from the windows but there is also something to be said for hiding a winter jewel at the bottom of the garden so that you make little pilgrimages to find its treasure. Spring is the time for bulbs to take over, summer should be easy and autumn is the time for fiery foliage and berries.
Another element that helps create a calm garden is crafting a sense of place. What does that mean? It’s an abstract concept, but you will recognise it when it exists. It means creating a garden that feels like it belongs to its location. So a garden set deep in the English countryside that is full of concrete walls and stainless steel is unlikely to have a strong sense of place. It could be a dramatic, exciting garden but it is unlikely to have a calm, soothing connection with the landscape. If you don’t have long views into the country, you can still create a sense of place by using materials in the garden that are linked to your house.
To get back to more practical issues, another essential in a garden where you can find calm is a comfy seat. Several comfy seats is even better. There should be a seat very near the back door where you can nip out for five minutes with a cup of tea and breathe in the fresh air. There should be a seat you can see from a window that becomes a focal point and reminds you that you can always go out and sit in the garden for a few, golden moments if it all get too much. Then there is the seat that can’t be seen from the house. This seat is your bolt hole where you can escape the world and enjoy your garden undisturbed.
And lastly, no garden can be a really calm, contemplative space without a tree, or several trees. People love to sit under a tree. Sitting with with your back to a solid trunk and daydreaming in the dappled light shed by a birch tree is a deeply comforting experience. A tree bench, or swing, creates a special place in your garden. If you have room for one tree, and most gardens do, you have room for three trees planted close together. Trees are sociable creatures. They grow better in groups.
So, if your garden is getting you down make a start today. Write down three things you can change easily, and do one of them this week. A garden is a gift. It should be a comfort to you, not something else to worry about.