Professional garden designers Rob Hardy & Co Garden Design created the Gold medal winning Macmillan Legacy Garden at the 2021 RHS Flower Show Tatton Park. The space was designed to be peaceful and contemplative, so we asked Rob to share some tips and advice for creating such a space at home. If you’re wondering how to make a peaceful garden space, read on for ideas that you can replicate in a corner or area of your outdoor space. Scroll to the bottom of this article for photos of the Macmillan Legacy Garden.
With all the stress and busyness of everyday life, what could be better than creating an oasis of calm in our own gardens; a space to unwind after a busy day at work?
From speaking with my garden design clients, it is clear being stuck at home for a year has made these peaceful garden projects top of the priority list for many of us. Our industry has seen a huge influx of interest, with a common request to create contemplative spaces in gardens. There are several elements to consider when looking to make a calm and relaxing sanctuary in your garden. Here are our top tips to help you on your way.
1. Find an area for your peaceful garden space
Firstly, you need to select the area for your quiet and calm space. Consider whether you want the area to be in the sun or the shade, and which location in your garden provides this. It doesn’t have to be a large area, smaller spaces can often feel more appropriate for a contemplative space. Go for what feels right for you.
What shape will the area be? Removing sharp angles and corners and instead creating a circular space is often soothing. If you’re consider creating a path that will lead to this new contemplative space, a meandering route will create a softer, organic feel to the garden.
If you’re going to be spending lots of time in your new space, give your choice of furniture careful thought. Something elegant and comfortable where you can while away the hours would be our preference. Do you just need the one seat, or will you invite others to join you?
2. Choose relaxing colours for garden planting
The colours that you use in the garden are important. As we all know, green is a calming colour. It reconnects us with nature and lowers the blood pressure – ideal for a contemplative space. Green plants in a variety of forms and textures should be top of your list when you’re choosing your planting palette.
When we start looking at introducing other colours, we need to think carefully about the impact they’ll have. Paler colours like whites and blues recede into the background and add intrigue and mystery to the space, whilst hot colours advance. Reds and oranges leap out at you and dominate the view, so use them sparingly! Try layering plants of different sizes and shapes to create areas of different interest and at different heights.
When thinking about your paving, you need to give careful thought to the colours too. Do you want a contemporary bold dark colour, or a gentle sandstone with intricate veins running across the surface? This is a personal choice and needs to complement your home and the other materials that you have used elsewhere in the garden.
3. Consider textures with your garden paving
I’ve touched on colours of paving, but textures are important too. You could create added interest by using two different materials to play with both the look and the feel of the ground underfoot. Porcelain paving has a modern, contemporary feel, or you could try a lovely textured paver such as a rustic riven stone like Scoutmoor, which is our favourite Marshalls’ product at the moment and shown at the top of this article. It’s quarried in Lancashire and each piece is unique; a gentle mid grey with flecks of darker tones and bands of cream streaked across.
4. Aim for repetition in planting and materials
As the saying goes – ‘less is more’ and when you’re considering how to make a peaceful garden, this is definitely a good mantra to have. Once you decide on a palette of materials, don’t be afraid of using it repeatedly throughout your garden. This creates a harmony in the design, linking one area to another. The same goes for planting. There is always the tendency to buy one of every plant from the nursery, but the key to great design is to keep your planting palette simple. If you find a great looking plant – buy lots, and use them again and again throughout the space.
5. Create privacy to help you relax in your garden
Ideally we want our relaxing space to be private and away from the distractions of neighbours or the kids, so consider creating your own little secret oasis by screening those views. That could be with planting or a structure, maybe even a new garden wall. Pergolas work great in these quiet corners too, allowing you to grow climbing plants up and over the structure to create a private seating area, surrounded by eye-catching plantings.
6. Attract nature to create a relaxing soundtrack
Birdsong is a tonic for the soul, so think about ways you can encourage birds into your garden to provide you with that beautiful background music. If you have even a small pond, the sound of frogs in the springtime can be lovely too.The sound of water also often helps to distract us from other noises in the neighbourhood and bring us into the present. Including a water feature in your peaceful garden space can provide this soothing sound.
7. Keep your garden simple to aid relaxation
It’s tricky to relax when your eye is distracted by children’s toys or a plethora of little plant pots. Instead keep your calm space clean and simple, removing all clutter. If you want to use plant pots, then opt for fewer, larger pots. A focal point such as a piece of sculpture or even a simple pile of stones can aid relaxation in the garden. However, be sure to avoid intricate and detailed features, as these can often add to the busyness of the mind.
8. Use garden lighting for a peaceful ambience
Outdoor lighting is often overlooked, however it can truly transform your garden and it can definitely help to create a peaceful space. Not only does it make the garden more useable for you in the evenings, it can create a lovely atmosphere. Look at subtle ambient lighting or candles (assuming it’s a sheltered area where the candles won’t blow out).
Ultimately, creating a relaxing or peaceful space in your garden comes down to curating the area to your preferences. Everyone is unique, finding different focal points, textures and colours calming. That’s where bespoke garden design really comes into its own and enlisting a professional garden installer can work wonders.
Photographs of the Macmillan Legacy Garden 2021 by Rob Hardy & Co Garden Design
The Macmillan Legacy Garden was designed to represent the expert care given by Macmillan Cancer Support to people living with cancer. Designed to be a reflective, peaceful garden, the design featured a twisting pathway through the garden’s centre using Scoutmoor natural stone paving. The pathway led across a reflective pool, which illustrated how Macmillan provides support through the cancer diagnosis journey. Plants and surfaces were initially sharp, jagged, dark and brooding, becoming more vibrant then calming around the seating area.With thanks to Rob for sharing these photos with us.