For centuries, people around the world have used plants to heal the body and mind. Gardens rejuvenate and relax you in infinite ways. Small or large, simple or elaborate, dry as a desert or wet like a bog—your garden can be a soothing spot, your little refuge from the frenzied world outside.
There are a number of ways to enhance your garden with plants or decorative elements that perform an aesthetic function as well as stamping your identity on the space. Including the following elements will help you elevate your backyard to an aesthetic focal point and put you back in tune with nature.
Wind and walkways
Ventilation is vital to a garden. A breeze creates an environment that is way superior to “soundless” outdoors. Plan your garden in such a way that no large trees or tall walls hinder the natural flow of breeze. According to Feng Shui in Chinese culture, the “chi”, or life energy, needs to have free movement to ensure harmony between nature and man. Therefore, many gardens are built in straight lines, with few obstructions.
Meditative spaces: Reflections make water features an interesting element in landscaping. Anusha Babbar, courtesy Better Interiors
However, winding paths or walkways provide an element of surprise. A moss-covered brick pathway provides a rustic feel, adding to the warmth. Wood or pebbled walkways can also be used as other options for a “feel good” factor on the feet.
Sound and scent
Eucalyptus and bamboo groves provide two distinct ambiences, but what they have in common is the rustling of their countless leaves that creates an incredibly restful atmosphere. An added bonus of the eucalyptus is the gentle fragrance that its fallen leaves exude.
Among other fragrant plants that can have an equally profound impact on one’s mood are all varieties of the jasmine family—including the raat rani (Cestrum nocturnum), madhumalti (Quisqualis indica) and kamini (Murraya exotica)—as well as champa (Plumeria) and roses (especially the climbing varieties, with their profusion of blooms and magnificent fragrance). The latter are best trained on a trellis near a seating area to ensure you are ensconced in a cocoon of heady floral perfume. Except roses, all the other species really thrive in tropical climates.
Picking out fresh herbs for your personal taste can be the culmination of a wholesome outdoor experience. Herbs can be grown either in pots or in the ground. Plant herbs that can serve both aesthetic and functional purposes. In tropical weather, plant mint and lemon grass. Lavender, rosemary and chamomile will do well in cooler climes.
After plants, water is the single most crucial element in a garden. The water body need not be elaborate: It could simply be a small fountain (nothing is more soothing than the sound of flowing water) or a still-water pond. The reflective properties of still ponds, if tapped correctly to create illusions of spaciousness, can be an interesting part of the landscape. Try and incorporate water bodies that blend with the surrounding environment as far as possible. Look for natural undulations in the existing topography. By designating a seating area near a water body, you will make it more inviting for people to stop and unwind.
Aquatic plants can be an uncommon addition to an urban garden. Water lilies and floating water ferns can be round-the-year attractions.
Use ornamental fountain grasses around pond areas to produce a natural look. Grasses are most appealing when they flower. Their feathery white, green and sometimes purple flower spikes really stand out in full bloom. They tend to grow wild, so cutting them back now and then will ensure even growth.
Shade, sun and colour
Ponds in less sunny gardens can be adorned with various fern varieties, as they thrive in areas that are highly humid and receive dappled sunlight.
Cosy seating area, where the dappled light and leaves whispering in the breeze are all you need for ambience. Anusha Babbar, courtesy Better Interiors
On the whole, a shady garden will prove more welcoming than a sunny one, so it is necessary to provide pockets of shade. However, do not do away with all the sunlight, since it will reduce the flower and colour options available to you.
Colours have a tremendous impact on your setting: Green is already known to be a soothing colour, but if for some reason your garden doesn’t receive much sunlight, different hues of green planted together can produce a subtle yet dramatic brightening effect.
Also, the right kind of flowering plants can attract little visitors to the garden. Birds, bees and butterflies give the garden a burst of life. Plants that can be used for this purpose are shrubs such as lantana, heliconia, hibiscus, Pentas and Cuphea, and trees such as bottlebrush, Tecoma and various fruit trees.
At the end of the day, your soothing garden should be a delight to all your senses, taste included.
Plant trees in a way that will ensure shade. But also remember to select ones with different flowering seasons—this way your garden will be in bloom throughout the year. You could, for instance, choose one from each group below, according to their blooming season.
Cassia, ‘gulmohar’, Lagerstroemia, jacaranda and Wrightia
Raintree, Nyctanthes and acacia
All content provided by Better Interiors
Anusha Babbar is assistant divisional manager, Green Grower, Mumbai.
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