Designing Your Own Private Garden Retreat

A garden retreat should be just that. It should offer a place of solace and relaxation — a place to escape after a long day at work. It should contain things that are meaningful to you — things that make you happy. Who better to design that place than the one it should please?

Folks tell me that they do not have the knack for designing. I say most people do, they just need a few rules to follow to give them a place to start. It’s important to remember that these rules can be broken as long as you like the results.

#1. Think of your space as a series of outdoor rooms.

The pond might be your television and a bench or swing your sofa. The kitchen is where you grill and you place the table close by in the dining area.

#2. Erect walls.

Walls can be made of hedges, vines supported by a trellis or use strategically placed latticework or bamboo panels for a hint of privacy. You can even hang pictures. Garden signs and plaques are a wonderful way to personalize your rooms.

#3. Design a doorway.

A room must have a doorway although it’s not necessary for the door to ever close. Arbors serve double duty as support for a favorite climbing rose or a simple break in the hedges works fine.

#4. Make Walking Paths.

If you lean toward formality lay (or have someone lay) pavers. Otherwise, for a more natural effect, make paths with a different kind of mulch than what is used in the planting beds or use tiny pebbles. You can also lay a flagstone walkway yourself quite easily using concrete filler or soil between the stones. For a delightful surprise plant whooly thyme in the cracks so that you smell the herb as you walk down the path.

#5. Embellish your garden with things that have meaning to you.

If you collect angels, collect a few pretty pieces of angel statuary. If you love cats, place cat "flavored" outdoor art in nooks where they playfully jump out at friends.

#6. Add water.

Nothing calms the nerves as much as the tranquility of water in the garden. From a simple birdbath to the wild rushing of water down a waterfall, water adds an element that cannot be duplicated.

#7. Cater to wildlife.

Share your sanctuary with whatever creature might take up residence in your garden. Encourage wild birds with an abundance of bird seed and by planting certain berry bushes. Squirrels can be pesky by stealing food from the other animals — but they can be extremely entertaining. They love corn though many times they might raid the bird feeders in addition to the corn you set out for them.

#8. Listen.

Do you like what you hear? Whether it’s the sound of silence or rock music that helps you enjoy your garden retreat you shouldn’t go without it. Pipe in soft muzak or delight in the sounds of nature. If you are living in close quarters be courteous and not play music loudly.

Your budget doesn’t have to be a major factor when creating a garden. There are thrifty ways to "decorate" your environment. All it takes is a bit of imagination.

What it all comes down to is that your own private garden retreat is YOURS. Do with it what YOU want. The most important rule to remember is that if YOU like it — well — that’s all the matters.

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