Natural Wellbeing: How to Create a Mindful Garden

Gardening is great for sustainability, but growing your own boosts wellbeing too - and today is all about the benefits for mind and body!  Creating a mindful garden is the perfect way to practice selfcare, work on a hobby, give back to the environment, and feed your spirit.  And today's contributing writer will share all!

Pink flower in a mindful garden

Gardeners have long since appreciated quiet time spent outside and the satisfaction of tending to plants, and more recently it’s been shown to have a positive impact on our physical health and wellbeing. It’s therefore unsurprising that the hobby has become more popular, with many people looking to develop their outdoor spaces and hone their green fingers – especially when we’ve all been spending a lot more time at home!

As a garden designer working across London and more rural areas, I work with many people looking to create a green oasis where they can re-connect with nature and unwind after a busy day juggling the chaos of everyday life. Whether you’ve got a courtyard, roof garden or larger countryside space, there’s plenty of ways to turn an unloved back garden into your very own a restful retreat.

Find inspiration with my design ideas for stimulating your senses and creating a mindful space.

a mindful community garden with wooden rafters that have flowers and vegetables beginning to bloom

  1. Feast your eyes

Filling your space with plants that you love is a great place to start to bring joy on a daily basis, but there’s other factors you can consider. Colour schemes can subtly impact your mood, with whites and pastels helping to promote calm, and bright hues denoting fun and energy.

It can also be helpful to think about shapes, how they fit together, and how they make you feel. For examples, incorporating curved shapes can help a garden seem cyclical and gentle.

When you’re planning a space or adding to an existing garden, don’t forget to think about your view from the house, as well as perspectives from any seating areas within the garden. You may want to look at a symphony of outdoor colour while you wash up at the kitchen sink, or choose a wildflower meadow area to look at from your favourite bench.

Plant ideas: For bright colour pops, I like perennials such as Helenium, Rudbeckia and hot coloured Geraniums. For a more calming colour scheme, favourites include lilac or blue Salvias, and tall purple Verbena. White flowers also work very well, such as Gaura, Jasmine and white flowered Hydrangeas.

  1. Serene sounds

Introducing trickling water, such as a water feature, can bring a fresh sound to your space. There are styles and sizes available to suit most gardens, as well as solar power options which can be more cost-effective while being environmentally friendly. Aside from their gentle sound, sources of water can also be great for wildlife, such as garden birds, who may use it to drink and wash!

In addition, bird feeders and plants that encourage birds and insects will not only support local species, but bring natural sounds into the garden. I find listening to the buzzing of bees and birds calling to each other a wonderfully grounding experience, not to mention it being a sign that your garden is attracting and supporting local species.

Plant ideas: Grasses, such as varieties of Pennisetum, Miscanthus and Stipa can provide gentle sound in the wind. If you’re looking to block out background traffic noise, choose dense shrubs like Laurel and Beech as hedges.

  1. Eat a rainbow

Even if you only have space for a couple of pots or vertical container planting, growing herbs, salads and vegetables is a tasty and rewarding activity.

There are many reasons to ‘grow your own’ – I find it enables me to grow organically and minimise the miles my food has travelled to my plate. It also allows me to access fresh greens to add to seasonal recipes, cutting out the need for plastic supermarket packaging.

If you’ve eaten anything you’ve grown yourself, you’ll know that it can offer a great plethora of flavours as well as a wide number of options for unusual varieties of your favourite vegetables.

Bear in mind that different gardens are suited to different vegetable types (down to factors such as sunlight and exposure), and that weather can impact your crop. I find that some years certain vegetables do better than others, so try not to get disheartened in your growing experience, and appreciate that a trial-and-error approach may be required!

Plant ideas: Try growing herbs like Coriander, Thyme, Mint and Basil in window boxes or pots for adding to cooking. Vertical growing vegetables, such as Beans, Peas and Tomatoes, are great if you’re short on space.

  1. Tingle with texture

There’s something special about the feeling of walking across springy grass, or running your hands through soft planting.

If you’re re-landscaping, you can be creative with mixing surfaces, such as using re-claimed timber, pebbles and gravel. Think about how they will look when combined, as well as how they will feel to walk or sit on.

For those focusing on planting, think about combining textures to build up a rich tapestry. Structural evergreens can go well with soft perennials and swaying grasses. Each plant offers something different when it comes to shape, height, colour, density and behaviour, so consider choosing a mix of complementing foliage shapes and levels. It’s a good idea to have a theme or repeating pattern to ensure the design looks interesting without being too busy.

Plant ideas: I love adding Hostas to shady corners, with their large corrugated leaves and handsome form. Stachys, known as ‘Lambs ears’ adds a wonderful soft texture, and Eryngium, known as ‘Sea Holly’ has fantastic spikey shaped blue flowers.

  1. Essential scents

We know from aromatherapy that lavender is associated with calm and improved sleep, while other smells, such as citrus, can help us feel fresh and uplifted.

Considering fragrance when you’re choosing your plants will bring another dimension to the garden as you walk through it or dine outside. Think about placing your most fragrant additions next to pathways or doors, where you will brush past them and release scent. You could also position them amongst seating areas where the smell will reach you as you relax.

Fragrant plants can also be very beneficial to bees and butterflies, who are attracted to them and subsequently visit for pollination purposes.

Don’t forget that it’s not just flowers that can awaken our sense of smell in the garden. I love the earthy musk of compost when planting up pots or beds, as well as the summery smell of freshly cut grass.

Plant ideas: Herbal plants like Lavender and Chamomile provide lovely relaxing scents. Scented Roses are super for a sweet summery smell, and a personal favourite of mine is Honeysuckle, perfect for a sunny fence needing a fragrant climber.

yellow and purple flowers with greenery in a mindful community garden

If you’re creating a garden but get stuck or feel unsure, you can always research or ask an expert who knows what’s what. In my opinion, the enjoyment and relaxation element of gardens comes from marvelling at the natural world, rather than worrying too much about everything looking perfect. By creating environments that can be cherished by local wildlife and humans alike, we can begin to provide habitats for all, while helping us re-connect with nature and enjoying mindful moments of calm.

NB. When growing edibles or other plants, always read the labels and packets to ensure you’re growing correctly and safely. If you’re not sure, double check with the supplier.

About the Author:

Eliza Nicholas is the founder of Rocket Garden Design – a design initiative working with spaces of all sizes, from tiny balconies to large gardens, always prioritising wildlife and wellbeing. Eliza previously worked in a corporate city environment, and now offers workshops and talks helping people re-connect with nature and enjoy the benefits of growing plants. All garden designs are hand drawn, with plenty of examples on Rocket’s website and Instagram page - @rocket_gardendesign .

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