The new trend in home gardens: landscaping to calm anxiety

WET GRASSES, the lapping of a fountain, the hypnotizing crackle of gravel underfoot: Japanese priests have nurtured contemplative intrigues for centuries. Now, homebound Americans in search of distraction and escape are establishing allotment gardens that evoke some of this Eastern horticultural wisdom.


What plants have you included in your sanctuary garden? Join the conversation below.

At Soothing Company, a St. George, Utah retailer specializing in exterior decorating, year-over-year sales of indoor fountains increased 35% in 2020. And when Burpee, a A plant and seed supplier to Warminster, Pa., drilled into the 30% sales growth it saw from 2019 to 2020, a pattern emerged: Buyers were looking for plants that exude calm. Sales increased for ornamental grasses and for flowers in historically less popular colors such as white and pale blue. Burpee said “quiet gardens” were a trend for 2021.

“The gentle rustle of bamboo adds soothing sounds to the garden, like a fountain. “

What makes an oasis of calm different from a typical backyard? A more immersive experience. “Your attention is occupied by sights, sounds, smells, textures – and the more you create something multisensory, the less likely you are to think at work,” said Giulia Poerio, Ph.D., psychology researcher. which focuses on wellness at the University of Essex in England. Here’s how to build your botanical cooling pill.

Lower the colors

Strong colors do not cultivate serenity. “Reds, oranges and yellows are warm colors that spark passion,” said New York landscape architect Edmund Hollander, who recommends tapping the other end of the spectrum for added tranquility. “The gradation from blues to greens is almost the colors of a stream, with whites and creams representing movement, if you will.”

Avoid the great outdoors

“When a view is partially obscured, you establish a sense of perspective and discovery,” said Los Angeles landscape architect Patricia Benner. Designer John Sharp, another Angeleno, favors paths that wind through the landscape. It introduces a structure with plants like soaring Italian cypresses or a voluminous Mexican sage, and it softens the hard edges – fences, walls, sheds, stairs – with greenery. Mr. Hollander insists on the notion of travel. “You can’t go out of the house and be in this space. You have to go somewhere, even if it’s only three steps.

A series of layers emphasizes depth and creates a sense of discovery as you move through space, New York landscape architect Edmund Hollander said of this hidden section of a local patio.


Joshua McHugh

Feeding on herbs

“If you’re sitting in a chair next to taller plants, you feel protected,” said George Ball, president of Burpee. The slender ornamental grasses can protect you well and dance languidly in the wind. “The kinetic quality of the herbs can create a sheer haze that is pleasing to the eye,” Ms. Benner said. Juli Risner, co-owner of Grounded, a retail store and landscape architectural firm in Encinitas, Calif., Loves the sound quality of sintered bamboo when brought to life by a breeze. “The gentle rustling adds soothing sounds to the garden, like a fountain.”

Speaking of fountains …

“Nothing creates a greater sense of peace than the sound of water,” Mr. Hollander said. For his part, Sharp looks for fountains that echo a home’s aesthetic, such as pairing a tall stone fountain adorned with Spanish ceramic tiles with a Mission Revival residence. Likewise, under a river birch canopy on a patio outside a Manhattan apartment, Mr. Hollander placed a pair of weathered zinc fountains minimalist enough to reflect the clean lines of the home’s interior. .

Opt for organic furniture

Reject cold metals and synthetic materials. Rattan, wood and cane allow you to emphasize the earthy theme of the calm garden. Chicago interior designer Amanda Norcross, co-owner of Norcross + Scott, relies on open-weave materials like wicker that can compensate for the stiffness of decking and stone. Woven furniture also brings “that subconscious connection to the maker,” she said. “He has a life. “

Five exterior decorative elements that adhere to the quiet aesthetic of the garden. Clockwise from top left: Gartner Teak Lounge Chair, $ 999,; Vintage Brutalist Mid-Century Metal Sculpture by Peter Calaboyias, $ 1,999,; Dash & Albert Veranda Natural Indoor / Outdoor Area Rug, $ 1,042 for 5ft by 8ft,; Modern Slate Fountain, $ 1,820,; Bover Garota P / 01 Outdoor Table Lamp, $ 1,604,

Take art to heart

A few hard lines, especially those of the sculptures, complete the tranquility. “It is important to contrast the natural forms found in gardens with controlled structural elements,” said Mr. Sharp. He likes pieces that look like a rust-colored totem pole, sometimes placed on a coffee table or along an aisle. “Creating a line of juxtaposition creates an unexpected dimensional layer. Mr. Sharp extends the definition of sculpture to strongly defined plants such as the silver column-shaped cactus.

Hear every step

“I like the quality of texture that the gravel provides,” said Ms. Benner, who lays it on walkways and patios. “It’s a smoother way to do hardscape. The loose, organic edges let green in and out. The silent crunch underfoot adds to the meditative effect.

Working with an existing terrace or terrace? Knotty knotted outdoor rugs can create the illusion of the earth beneath your feet. Mrs. Norcross sees no need to worry about the size of the mat. “Identify a group of seats and let [the rug] float in front, not under any leg. If your quest for a Zen garden is going well, you might be worried a lot less in general.

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