Stephen Carlson








Creating a Tranquil Garden

How many times have we seen pictures of cookie cutter subdivisions where all the homes seem alike?  Ever wonder how you might find your way home at night if you lived is such a place?  In some parts of California the whole subdivision is painted the same color and all the homes use much of the same floor layout.  I can appreciate how sameness helps the developer and increases his profit margins, but it creates a blandness not just in appearance but also to the people that make it their home.    If living in a new home, with a new yard, with new furniture doesn’t give us peace, then what will?  We assume that we if can just get the American dream--the dream of owning a home, and then the next dream of owning the biggest yard possible with a tall, straight fence running off into the sunset—then we will be find peace.  Yet somehow, peace eludes us in our pursuit of bigger and newer things.  If we can’t find tranquility in big is better, then where can we find it?  We can find tranquility by carving out an area specifically set aside for that purpose—a garden to be rejuvenated in. It doesn’t have to be a large area—think of a Japanese garden,  some are smaller then the house you live in, some as small as ten square feet.   How does such a small area create tranquility?  It is the careful melding of diverse elements including sights, sounds, and sensations that our mind translates as being calming and peaceful.

The great part about developing a garden that is peaceful to visitors is that small really is beautiful.  Even those who have yards that are ½ acre or more can set aside a relatively small area to become an oasis of peace.  These same principles apply to an interior area as well as to a balcony.

When we think of an oasis out in the desert we imagine a place where there is clean running water, shade trees, lush vegetation, sand dunes, all a place of tranquility.  So too, any area we set aside be it a room, balcony or yard the goal is to create an inviting place free of clutter and busyness.  There are basic universal elements that create harmony in a small garden:  water, be it a bird bath or fountain; wood, arbor, bench or planting boxes; fire, lights or a grill; earth, soil, clay pots, rocks or boulders; metal, sculpture, sun dial, or wind chimes.  These objects if used judiciously can be chosen for what they do for the gardener.  Careful placement of texture, color, sight, smell and sound are all used to evoke a memory and create a mood.  Perhaps a sculpture was given to you and has great meaning and good memories; it deserves a place in your oasis.  Choice of flowers, trees, and other plants is primarily based on what brings peace to you.

Once you square off an area to be dedicated to your oasis create a curving path out of brick, stone, or stone chips.  Perhaps in the center or to one side set up a bird bath, koa pond or even an electric water fall.  Create a backdrop or “mountain” made of a fence, tall plants or even a large pile of dirt.  When planting flowers, try to cluster them in groups without planting too many.  Red & yellow flowers give energy while purple and white flowers are more comforting.  Flowers might include:  tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, primroses, and pansies.  Include herbs like lavender, sage, and thyme.  The idea is to blend the flowers without being overly busy.

Finally, it is important to maintain your oasis so that it doesn’t become overgrown and scraggily.  Clutter and decay is the death of peace and tranquility.  Peace is not found in busyness but found in an area where you can remind yourself of your own health and vitality.  The greatest thing about creating a soothing oasis for yourself is that if it works for you, it will work for others as we


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