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Turn Your Garden Into a Sanctuary

By Sally Newcomer, Colorado Master GardenerSM, and Carl Wilson, horticulture agent, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, Denver County

Everyone needs a place of refuge to sit, dream, plan, breathe deeply and savor a peaceful moment.  Some public spaces offer such sanctums, but a private sanctuary in a home garden can be even better.

Gardening books offer many ideas about how to grow that you love and build private garden spaces in which one can think, rest, write, and enjoy.  To begin, try placing a bench, a chair, a hammock or a stump at a vantage point from which you can observe your garden.

When considering potential garden locations, think about light, shade, privacy and your comfort level.  Is the light right for the time of day and type of contemplative activity you enjoy?  Shade might be your calling, or sunbathing a luxury not to be passed up.  Is the distance from the house, street and neighboring properties enough to give you a sense of privacy and distance?

Try potential locations with portable props such as a garden umbrella, potted plants or a table.  A floor lamp with the shade removed can represent garden statuary, or a room screen can suggest a structure.  Use a mature hedge as one wall of an outdoor "room," and add props around it.  A mature tree overhead or grass beneath might feel right to you.

Once you have a location, consider what structures or plants could be added or removed.   A gazebo, a potting shed, a deck, a treehouse or a porch suggest relaxation.   Pavers, flagstone or other hard surfaces can indicate a separate place.  Or, as part of the sanctuary, you might consider adding something as simple as a lattice screen with vines.  Does an unkempt tree or an unsightly structure need to be removed or renovated?

What are the plant possibilities and limitations of your potential location?  Are the light and exposure right for growing the type of plants you enjoy?  Note the protection offered by buildings, wind patterns and availability of water.  Is the soil conducive to plant growth?

Water suggests peace, and water gardens are popular.  Garden centers and publications can provide a lot of help in using water effectively.  Water features can range from something as simple as a container water garden to a complex waterfall and pond.

Add personal touches that please you.  An interesting stump or bench for seating, a table for coffee or a chest for writing materials or candles could be just the thing.   What about night lighting or modulated music to enhance the mystique of your "secret" garden?

Consider fragrant blossoms to soothe the senses or plants with morning or night blooms.   Plan to include plants that will add interest in all seasons.  Plants that attract birds or butterflies are another possibility.

With the decisions made, build your sanctuary.  Hearing a mother finch settle her tiny chicks as the sky fades to purple and the moon rises over your private garden is the perfect way to end a busy day.

Photograph courtesy of Carl Wilson.

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010