Transforming the garden into a silent space
The garden, a place of visual beauty, a place to play or to simply to sit back and relax.
One can create an exercise routine whilst working in the garden, watch others do it whilst reading a book, or simply relax and rest the mind, body and soul. In the case of the latter, consider creating a silent space to achieve the goal.
In a large garden find a wooded spot to create the ambience; in a small garden create a secluded area to sit and relax. Wellbeing is presently the “in” word with health professionals; neuroscientists inform us that with the continued persistence of the coronavirus, making time to reflect is crucial for our brains.
Think of it as an outside “man cave” without the toys, just yourself and nature with tweeting birdlife and rustling foliage; no cell phone, television, or outside interference, a place to chill and concentrate.
For two years the pandemic has wrought changes to our daily lives; we have become physically separated from nature. Even on a small island the effects of restrictive movement are evident. The sound of silence can be deafening and inspirational when time is given to consider its implications.
The garden does not evoke excitement in everyone – beauty is in the eye of the beholder and peace and quiet are often lost “fantasies” in today's world. Creating a quiet space tucked away in a corner can be simplicity itself. All that is needed is a little imagination to develop an interesting area with a mix of minimal maintenance and interesting plantings.
To create privacy would require some larger material such as palms, small trees, or large shrubs, interplanted with medium-growing shrubs and grasses and completed with evergreen ground covers. Use a hard material, such as wood or brick, to form the seating area in the shape of an amoeba – which is easy on the eye and without any harsh corners to distract.
For those whose land which is zoned woodland reserve/conservation area, a silent space can be incorporated within the confines of this area. Consider creating a “transition” planting between the garden and woodland area, thus creating a seamless appearance to wander from one area to the next. Creating one or a couple, if large enough an area, of “natural” paths to the silent space and then continue the path to meander through the rest of the “wild garden area”.
A green landscape can be soothing to the eye while an abundance of colour can have a more riotous effect on the viewer. Green is found in many tones and shades and, when combined with “shapes”, can be amazingly effective in its tranquility and appearance. Leaf shape creates a natural change to the landscape; consider the variations found in ferns with large, ladderlike foliage to the smaller rounded foliage of the maidenhair fern, made visually more interesting when planted in a shady area with a dappled light glinting through the upper canopy of foliage.
In a wooded area seek out an interesting vista and remove the plants that block the view, using the remaining plants to frame the vista, thus creating a focal point; using garden furniture in such an area encourages its usage as a place to relax.
The introduction of bird baths – in a safe location from cats – and statuary also enhance the visual impact of the area, especially when placed in an area that is easily viewed from the surrounding area. Leaving a few old rotting logs around a wooded area is a welcome sight to bird life offering a meal of grubs and insects that inhabit such areas.
The garden can be a sanctuary, a play area, a place of riotous activity … whatever is the want of the beholder. However, to realise that want will require effort in keeping the area to the level that fulfills the need.
Malcolm Griffiths is a trained horticulturalist and fellow of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture in the United Kingdom. He is also past president of the Bermuda Horticultural Society, Bermuda Orchid Society and the Bermuda Botanical Society