In many homes up and down the UK, whether they are in a village, town, city or out in the middle of the countryside, people are making do with chaotic or dull gardens. They are not the places of tranquillity and safety which encourage us to reconnect with nature that we desire. Instead, they are pieces of land which occasionally serve a practical purpose but, for the most part, are just adding to the list of household maintenance chores. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be this way.
Even the most noisy, jungle-like garden can be transformed into a sanctuary of calm and contentment, if you know where to focus your attention. From the plants, flowers and trees you choose, to the structures, furniture and accessories, redesigning your garden is a fantastic project which will keep on giving year after year. If you are struggling to know where to get started, this is the right article for you. To enable you to create a peaceful and relaxing garden, here are 12 ideas which may help to inspire you.
1. Clean Up
When we try to relax in a room which is messy, we struggle to switch our mind off. With too much mental stimulation and/or that nagging feeling that you should be tidying up, you won’t be able to destress. Your garden is no different. If you look around your garden and see weeds, overgrown grass, toys, garden equipment and general rubbish which you’ve been putting off clearing, you are unlikely to feel tranquil and at ease. Before you do anything else, set about clearing and cleaning the garden of anything you don’t want.
2. Identify the Main Source of Unwanted Noise
If you are in an especially noisy area, you should try and identify where the majority of the noise is coming from. It could be traffic from a nearby road, or noises from your neighboring properties, but once you know what it is, you can focus your efforts on reducing its impact. You may not be able to get rid of the unwanted noises completely, but planting hedges and trees between you and the source of the noise could help significantly.
3. Layer Plants Vertically
To prevent noises from entering your garden, you should try to block the space vertically. This means planting evergreen trees and grasses as your tallest layer, followed by shrubs and plants which sprawl outwards in the middle, and short ground covering plants and perennials as the bottom layer. If you are restricted in terms of space, other options include hanging gardens and living walls.
4. Select Columnar Trees
Planting columnar (‘column like’) trees can create a living hedge that provides an effective barrier between your garden and the outside world. These trees have been bred to grow in an upright direction, and with regular pruning can become skinny hedges when planted together. There are several types of tall, slim trees which grow relatively quickly such as red sweetgum, European hornbeam and red maple.
5. Plant Vegetation Densely
The denser the vegetation around your garden, the more sounds you will be able to muffle and filter out. Think of it as a sound barrier in the form of a woodland. Planting trees about 10 feet apart will encourage them to grow upright, rather than out to the side, as they will try to compete for sunlight. It’s important, however, to remember to leave a space for sunlight to get in. Trees like possumhaw holly, yaupon holly, serviceberry and birch are great examples of multi-stem trees which will work well.
6. Create a Dedicated Quiet Area
In some cases, it may be difficult to create a sanctuary in the garden without building a structure. For example, you may be unable to plant trees to enclose the space and/or you may be living in a particularly busy urban area. In these situations, a summer house or cabin may be the ideal solution.
Summer houses can be like outdoor rooms with windows, which means you can enjoy your garden while sheltering yourself from the elements (whether that’s wind, rain or extreme heat) and minimizing the impact of surrounding noise. Add some furniture and soft furnishings, and you can create a homely space for relaxation and/or for entertaining friends.
7. Choose Materials Which Absorb Sound
All of the surfaces in your garden will amplify or absorb sounds. To stop the sounds in your garden from being reflected and amplified, you should increase the materials which will absorb sounds and make your space quieter. For example, soft surfaces such as furnishings on chairs will absorb sounds, while metal and stone will amplify it. The ground is likely to be your biggest culprit for amplification, but you can reduce this by planting lots of plants and flowers which have textured surfaces.
8. Bring in a Water Feature
If you live in a noisy area, or if there is a particular sound you want to drown out, installing a water feature is a fantastic solution. Even a relatively small water feature which produces the sounds of running, bubbling, fizzing, pouring or spraying water can cover unpleasant sounds. This could be a waterfall in a pond, or a small ornament with a water element included within it.
If you cannot have a water feature in your garden for some reason, technology can be a great help. A speaker in the garden with a sound effects app can play the sound of running water (or any other sound you find soothing) at the push of a button. Remember to be considerate of any close neighbors if you are planning to play sounds outside via a speaker.
9. Attract Birds
Birdsong is widely regarded as one of the most pleasing sounds in nature, if not the world. In fact, birdsong has even been found to have practical uses including helping people overcome fears, concentrate during exams and increase their productivity. You can take steps to encourage wild birds into your garden such as having birdhouses in trees, a bird feeder and/or a bird bath.
10. Wind Chimes
While not everyone enjoys the sound of wind chimes, many people find them very soothing. If you are someone who finds the chiming sounds to be relaxing, try hanging some near your seating to replace the unwanted noises.
11. Choose Plants and Flowers with Fragrance
In addition to thinking about the noises you want or don’t want in the garden, you might also consider the fragrances around you. There are lots of plants, herbs and flowers which have been proven to aid in relaxation such as chamomile and lavender. Find some fragrances which you find appealing, and plant them in a border around your garden or the area you will spend most of your time in.
12. Choose Comfortable Furniture
Sitting on garden walls, the grass, splintering wooden furniture or warped plastic chairs is hardly going to help you settle into a relaxation session which eases your troubles away. You should be investing in comfortable furniture which you want to sit in — i.e. chairs which support your body and keep you comfortable for an extended period of time.
For a truly luxurious seating solution, consider a hanging chair or hammock which also gives a peaceful swaying motion as you close your eyes and let the sunshine and gentle breeze caress your face. With running water and birdsong as your backing track, it truly doesn’t get much more peaceful than that.