With all the awful news of the bombing of innocent children in the MEN Arena here in my home city of Manchester, I did wonder whether writing about gardens this week might seem almost trivial. But I realised that gardens play an important part in our lives, especially at times like these , as places where we can find peace from the apparent danger and madness of the world. A gardens is, without a doubt, a sanctuary.
I looked up the definition of the word ‘sanctuary’. It said ‘Sanctuary’- a refuge or safe place, especially for someone being chased, hunted, or in other danger.
My own garden has been a sanctuary for me all my life. The beauty of ‘nature perfected’ has seen me through many difficult times and, if I’m ever feeling low, I inevitably fling open the French door and, within a step, I am surrounded by it. Even on cold or wet days I can find sanctuary in my little summerhouse, which is snug and cosy, protected from the lashing rain which I can see splashing on the pond outside- and believe me, a dry place to sit outside is both lovely and necessary here in rainy Manchester.
So what are my 6 essential elements for making a garden into a sanctuary?
1. First you must make your space private. No-one ever described an overlooked space as a sanctuary. This means putting up fences or walls so that no-one can look in, and then prettifying and softening these boundaries with planting. They should be so well covered with planting that you cease to be aware that there are any boundaries to your garden.
2. Add a gate so that no-one can enter the garden without your knowledge. Privacy must be total.
3. Add trees to further blot out unwanted views, positioning them to obscure the views of neighbouring windows from your seating areas.
4. Have several seating areas where you can follow sun or shade throughout the day-making each one like a nest, enveloped in planting, both scented and sensory, to soothe jangled nerves.
And, if possible, invest in a summerhouse or arbour where you can hide away even on cold and rainy days.
5. Add the sound and sight of water-so tranquil and calming,especially in a noisy city. It also brings wildlife in to drink and bathe, so your garden become a sanctuary for them also.
6. Add abundant planting. Pull in tall plants to the front of borders and paths so that you feel as if you’re walking through a flowery tunnel, full of scent and colour. Feeling dwarfed by Nature in a garden is important so plant trees and add height with pergolas and arches covered in climbers.
This feeling of overwhelming plant generosity will be balm to your soul and a counterbalance to any meanness you may encounter in your day to day life. Nature is never mean, always abundant.
And finally, make sure you take the time to potter about and sit in this wonderful sanctuary that you’ve created- after all, we have been given the gift of life and it’s important to enjoy it. Have a peaceful week.