Make Your Garden a Place of Peace

Forests, parks, and gardens are known for their calming influence on our thoughts and emotions. Being outdoors in the fresh air, birds singing in the trees, blossoms swaying in a breeze–all of these elements together contribute to a feeling of peace and serenity. Even after a long day laboring in the hot sun–our bodies spent–we can still somehow leave the garden feeling mentally and spiritually replenished. In his NY Times op-Ed, “The Healing Power of Gardens,” the late, famed neurologist and author Oliver Sacks described the powerful effect of gardens on our minds and bodies, noting, “In many cases, gardens and nature are more powerful than any medication.” Indeed, gardens have a profoundly positive effect upon our wellbeing, and, in that sense, time spent in a garden is never wasted.

While many of us grow vegetables for food and nourishment, gardens can be deeply nourishing in other ways. Usually more than happy to meet us halfway, plants teach us that where we place our attention and care matters. They show us by thriving and, occasionally, by dying. Gardens are ultimately forgiving places, allowing slips here and there, responding happily to a drink of water–and remain beautiful even when the weeds have taken over. When we're feeling overstimulated, gardens can be an oasis of peace.

Create your own peaceful garden retreat with some of the ideas outlined below.

Reduce noise.

If you live in an area with lots of intrusive sounds–like traffic, construction, or loud music–it can be difficult to enjoy a beautiful garden. To help buffer ambient sounds, try one or two of the following strategies.

  • Grow a privacy screen with vining plants. Plants like Morning Glory, Moon Flower, Balloon Vine, Ruby Moon Hyacinth Bean, Yakteen Gourd, and Red Malabar Spinach will all grow vigorously and densely enough to deflect noise. Train them along fences or trellises.
  • Grow tall grasses. Grasses can create their own soft, shimmery sound in the wind, distinct from rustling leaves.
  • Hang wind chimes. Wind chimes or bells sound beautiful when they catch the breeze. 
  • Feed the birds! Set out bird feeders and a bird bath to invite more birds into your space. Birdsong has a way of crowding out noise pollution. Grow a flower mix intended for birds and watch them enjoy the seeds these plants produce. Try our Bird Lover’s Meadow Seed Shaker to sow a 10’ x 10’ patch of annuals and perennials that birds love.
  • Plant evergreen trees and shrubs. If planted densely enough, the year-round foliage of evergreens can act as an effective sound barrier, deflecting some of the sound waves that would otherwise penetrate your peaceful oasis.
  • Install a tall fence. Fences can be expensive, so this is not a solution for everyone. But if you have the means, a fence can act as a sound buffer in addition to creating more privacy.  

Keep it simple and fuss-free.

It’s important to be realistic about what we can accomplish; after all, we also want to rest and enjoy the garden we’ve worked so hard to create! It might be more satisfying to dedicate our energy to the place in the garden where we are likely to spend most of our time. Keep this area tidy and inviting. If it makes sense, add some seating and pillows to relax and read a book in the shade.

Choose resilient, fuss-free varieties suited to your growing conditions. Take some time to learn about whether your plants do best in sun or shade, dry soils or wet soils, etc. For permanent plantings, choose flowering native plants whenever possible; these will generally perform well in local growing conditions, resist disease, and support beneficial insects like pollinators.

Flowers like Nasturtium, Borage, Bachelor’s Button, and Calendula all grow quickly, without much fuss (these are also great varieties to succession sow throughout the season). Many herbs will tolerate poor soils and drier conditions, such as Thyme, Oregano, and Marjoram–plus, they smell heavenly. Vegetables will need a little more attention, but some easier varieties include Ground Cherry, Sunchokes, Summer Squash, and Bush Beans. Succession sown lettuces and greens are easy and rewarding to grow as well. 

Color, fragrance, tea = serenity.

Limiting a flower bed to 2-3 complementary colors (colors side by side on a color wheel, e.g., pink and purple) can produce a feelings of tranquility and calm.  Combine tall, fragrant Nicotiana with Spider Flower, or, design a “moon garden” with pale colors that glow in the moonlight. For a scented garden in a limited palette, try Midnight Garden Flower Mix.

For a serenity garden, fragrance is just as important as color. Why do we close our eyes to smell a flower? Fragrance is powerful and transporting. It can restore long-forgotten memories–lilacs in our grandmother’s garden, our first taste of fresh basil–and it can ground us deeply in the present moment.

 Flowers and herbs do fragrance best: for fragrance, sow Nicotiana, Broken Colors Four O’Clocks, Cupani’s Sweet Pea, Anise Hyssop, Bouquet Dill, and more. Visit our Aroma Garden Collection for ideas.

And finally, for even more serenity, grow plants for making herbal teas that you can enjoy with your book in the shade. Mint, Lemon Balm, Chamomile, Catnip, and Mad Dog Skullcap–all are known for their calming effects.

There are many things we can do to enhance our experience of peace and serenity in the garden. Whether we hope to emulate or pay homage to a particular design aesthetic or natural landscape, it’s important to remember that the process of designing a peaceful garden is itself an opportunity to cultivate patience, open-mindedness, and joy.