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Finding Tranquility


By Anne Halpin

We live in a fast-paced world and sometimes we just need to slow down. You can’t always take a vacation, but you can take a break, right where you live. Moments of peace and serenity can be as close as your back door. Here are some ways to create your own peaceful haven in your own backyard.

First, create a quiet, private spot somewhere in your landscape. Install an arbor and plant wisteria or grapevines or trumpetvine to cover it. Set a couple of lounge chairs underneath. Place a bench in a quiet corner and plant hydrangeas on either side and butterfly bushes behind it. Make a tropical mini-paradise with large pots of palms, banana plants, canna lilies and elephant ears to screen a small patio or a gazebo.

Second, choose colors for your garden that are soft and cool. Blue is calming, the color of the sea and the sky; it creates a peaceful feeling when we gaze at it. It is. Blue flowers and foliage can promote a feeling of serenity, especially planted around a small pool or fountain. Green is the most restful color to the human eye, because the lens does not need to refocus in order to perceive it. A garden of different shades of green foliage can be soothing, too. Or, if you prefer warmer colors, plant drifts of flowers in soft pink or peach instead of bright red and hot orange.

Particular scents also have been found to produce emotional, psychological and in turn, physiological effects in people. This research  became the basis for aromatherapy. Lavender, for example, promotes relaxation, as do jasmine and bergamot (or beebalm). And who could deny the therapeutic effect of wandering through a garden full of deliciously fragrant roses? All these plants can inhabit your serenity garden here on the east end, if only for a summer season.

Ornamental grasses work a special magic in the landscape as they sway and rustle in each passing breeze. That gentle motion can be hypnotically soothing if you let your eyes just follow it, and the soft rustling sounds are relaxing. Grasses are easy to grow, and as a bonus, deer don’t generally like to eat them. Other sounds can also soothe the spirit: hang some wind chimes or bells in your garden. And encourage birds to visit by installing a birdbath and a feeder or two, then keep them filled. The songs of birds in spring and summer are a joy to hear.

Water brings its own particular charms to the garden. Water that moves is musical – trickling, splashing, bubbling gently – its cheerful sounds are pure delight. Moving water can be as quiet as a gentle trickle from a simple bamboo waterspout or as lively as a fountain dancing skyward in the center of a patio garden. Its sound will distract from neighborhood racket.

Still water provides a visual balm. The surface of a small pool, or even a birdbath, draws our eye as it reflects the sky and trees above. A passing breeze ripples the surface and the image dissolves, only to reform. Water can be mesmerizing, a still point of serenity that drains away stress, even if just for a moment or two.

You can put the pieces together in a way that works on your property. For example, in a courtyard or small garden space you could surround a small pool or trickling fountain with beds or pots of flowers in misty blues and soft purples, and add some benches and chairs for comfortable seating.
To experience the magic of your garden hideaway, simply go there and sit for a while, without your phone or iPod or laptop.  Let your eyes drift over the plants and take in the colors. Breathe in the fragrance. Be still. Take your time. Close your eyes. Listen to the gentle music of swaying grasses or twittering birds or trickling water, the soft tones of wind chimes. Let the world fall away for a while.