Before we can design a Serenity Garden, we must first identify what Serenity means to you. Serenity by definition means calm and tranquility. For some people, this would mean a backyard structured for relaxation and meditation. Others may be seeking an "Asian inspired" garden, with classic pagoda's or a Zen gravel garden they could rake patterns into. Even still, some may be seeking a special element to remember a loved one who has passed on. Let's explore the key elements to these 3 different styles of Serenity Garden Design.
The Garden for Relaxation: Choose an area in your garden that is already a calm space. Away from busy streets; the sound of ringing phones; and sheltered from the afternoon heat.
Decide what you want from this space: Will you be meditating or praying here? Would you like this space to snooze in a hammock? Is this an area that you will mostly view from a window? Will you entertain groups of people or rather it be a private space? How much time will you spend maintaining this garden? Do you have a sprinkler system or are you willing to hand water?
Colors can influence your mood. If you intend to use this space to relax, consider a palate of green plants. Green is nature, the color has a natural cooling effect and the use of different textures creates peacefulness. Other colors that could enhance this space would be blues, purples, muted pinks, and white. Any color could be used, just be aware of it's effects.
Comfort is another consideration. A screened gazebo will keep away bee's and mosquito's. Comfy, cushioned chairs and pillows will make you want to linger. So will an outdoor heater. Some people may want to be able to play music, you can install outdoor speakers. Don't forget about the lighting, not only for ambiance, but for safety.
The Asian or Zen Garden: A true Asian Serenity Garden is a minimalist garden. Plants are kept to a minimum, with plenty of space between for growth and maturity. Plant varieties are in limited numbers as well. Asian gardens are extremely well maintained, it is the grooming in itself that is the calming quality.
This is a popular garden for Japanese Maples (Crimson Queen and Viridis are two weeping varieties that are quite small); topiary conifers; ornamental grasses; and flowering shrubs. Rhododendrons and Azaleas are commonly used. All of these plants look their best when old flowers are removed, dead leaves are pruned away, and plants are shaped and pruned often for appearance.
Other elements to this garden style are bamboo fences used to hide unwanted views and add texture. Stone walkways or stepping stones give the Asian garden pattern and a destination, but they are never placed in straight lines. Pathways always curve or stager in Asian garden design. The water feature is an important focal point. It can be a small water basin or a large scale pond. Another focal point is the Asian garden ornaments. It may be a Buddha, a girl in a kimono, or a lantern. All of these features work together creating Serenity.
The Zen gravel garden or Karesansui style, is the most relaxing of them all. Take a large space (square or rounded) to represent the ocean. This will be the gravel area. Place only a few boulders or sculptures in your ocean (before you add the gravel). This represents islands, and less is more. You can spend hours raking around your islands, this is Zen-like. It's only aggravating when leaves and debris fall in the gravel or your neighborhood cats think you've made them a cat box. Otherwise, very peaceful.
The Memorial Garden: Maybe it's a remembrance garden that you are looking for. Planting a tree or a shrub to remember someone is a very graceful gesture of memory living on. Some may prefer to place a statue, birdbath, or another garden sculpture to remind them of a loved one.
Creating your garden, you'll need to ask yourself a few questions. Is this going to be a stand alone feature? This would be perfect for a tree or a sundial. What kind of tree? Maybe a favorite tree of the person who has passed. A tree that represents that person's personality (a strong oak tree, a lacy leaved maple, a southern flowering magnolia). Or maybe a tree that reminds you of a memory you shared together (climbing an apple tree when you were kids...).
If this is going to be an addition to an existing garden, consider a shrub or a vine that is flowering close to the time of the person's death. A winter flowering Camellia, a spring flowering Jasmine (the fragrance will be a bonus), a summer flowering Hydrangea, or a fall flowering Clematis. That way you'll always be reminded.
Still, you can build an entire garden around the thought of one person. It could be based on a favorite color; a fragrant rose garden (rose color meanings: red = love, white = innocence, yellow = friendship); their old college colors; a butterfly garden for a child; a garden that concentrates on one season; or even an unfinished garden that you add a special plant for every friend or family member (and let's hope it's never finished).
It doesn't have to be plants. Birdbaths come in so many colors now. You can pick one in that persons favorite color and it will be surrounded with life forever, so long as you keep water in it. A well selected statue (even a dog or a cat for the family pet). A single lantern could even have meaning as that person's "light or flame."
Still haven't found the Serenity Garden you were looking for? Call us for a garden consultation, we can meet you at your house or at the garden center of your choice to help you select just the right elements for your backyard design.
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Serenity Garden Design LLC. * 743 Broadway, Suite 222 * Tacoma, WA 98402 * 253/537-6716