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In this guide we look at different ways to make your garden a relaxing place to unwind from daily stresses.

A common aspiration for many gardeners is to have a garden for relaxation, somewhere calming to escape the stresses we may face in our everyday lives. It may be we want all our garden to provide a calm sanctuary, or we want to allocate a space where we can add calming elements to help us to destress and relax.

  • Spending time in the garden helps to reduce stress, lift our mood and provides regular physical exercise
  • Creating calming spaces can involve nurturing new plants and supporting growth in other living things
  • Adding calming features to our gardens can have a positive impact on other people who come into contact with them
  • Children can be involved in the design process by encouraging them to think about what they find calming
  • Children can also get involved in the physical activities to create a calming space (although younger children may need extra support)
  • When creating a new garden space, children can be encouraged to have a sense of ownership in it, for example, by making them responsible for watering new plants or attending to any weeding needed
  • Try not to set your aspirations beyond what is achievable, remembering the journey is as valuable as the end result
  • Take your time. Little and often can be better for you than a hard day’s work followed by a dip in physical activity
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Whenever we are changing a garden, whether it be a slight or wholesale change, consider what already exists and what plants, features and structure are worth keeping. Trees may have preservation orders and our gardens may border other spaces, so some careful consideration is needed before we act. We should take time observing the space, so we have a full appreciation of how sun, wind and even frost affects it. The type of soil you have is also going to be crucial to recreating a thriving garden.

Think through the structure of a garden or space in the garden where you intend to create your calming space.

It could be that a fuller re-laying of borders could totally change the feel of a back garden. Sometimes rounding off a border at the end or creating curvature will balance a straight boundary. Heavier rope can be a useful tool to create curvature and interesting shapes, or you could use horticultural sand to get the shape of beds and borders right. Or it could just be that moving some pots or containers and placing them on right angles is a quick and easier way of softening a more symmetrical garden.

Height is also important in structure. Think about how the different heights of plants will create vertical structure in your garden. Using plants to screen can help us block out the modern world. Here an important factor is choosing the right height of plants and their growing habit.

Colour is also important in how calming a garden can be. In the UK, greens and blues tend to be calming or passive colours whereas reds and yellows ten to be viewed as arousing and active. Culture appears to make a difference to how colour is interpreted. We might tend to carefully suggest greens and pastel colours as being more calming, but this is definitely one area where individual choice is probably a safer way to think about what’s right for your calming space.

Calming spaces 3

Many will state that a water feature is a calming element within a garden and if this is your preferences then naturalised water features will likely provide serenity beyond a sculpted or metallic feature. Some people do enjoy the reflective nature of metallic ornaments in the garden, so this is something else to consider.

Movement of plants is often viewed as calming. Grasses and sedges alongside some climbing or big leaved plants can provide gentle movement very well.

Scent is something else that is very much a personal preference, but just as we can have arousing and calming colours, we can also have the same impact by having differently scented plants in our gardens. If scent is important to you, think how you might gain your preferred scent across the seasons.

I like the tranquility of the garden more than the practical side, like nature and birds.

Franky, gardener

It may be the process of creating a calming space is also about leaving things out or removing plants and features from the garden. If we have allergies or get bothered by wasps and bees, then creating gardens that avoid high pollens or very sugary nectars may be right for you. Or it could be that other issues need fixing, such as the noisy shed door.

Seating for some will be crucial to the calming garden experience. Having a seat that offers the right view across the more calming plants and features in the garden could provide the opportunity to sit quietly and recover from stress.

Enjoying the sensory experience is important, observing, touching and enjoying the scent of our gardens enables us to gain the improved sense of wellbeing that is so well documented in research.

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