From the ancient Egyptians, throughout the Mughal empires, from the Tao in the east to the western Renaissance, the lands surrounding our house, have served as a retreat, a haven for quiet contemplation, a place to reclaim order and to evoke pleasure and spiritual regeneration.
In creating a garden sanctuary for today, we must address our modern environmental concerns and ensure that our sanctuaries contribute to a healthy and sustainable planet. This includes the responsible use of natural resources, protection and promotion of wildlife, and incorporating our ever-expanding knowledge of factors that impact the health of both people and the environment. By creating garden sanctuaries that adhere to these principles, we can foster a more harmonious relationship between humans and the planet.
Studies now show that people who spend time connecting with nature can experience physical benefits like lower blood pressure, and a decreased heart rate, as well as emotional benefits like increased self-esteem, less stress and anxiety, and a hopeful mood. Despite being around for centuries, healing gardens are having a revival with more hospital and aged care homes offering horticulture therapy within purpose-built therapeutic gardens. To read more here is what the Australian and New Zealand Mental Health Association writes: What is Horticultural Therapy and How Does it Work?
Create Your Own Garden Sanctuary
I invite you to follow me and think of creating an inspirational sanctuary for yourself. In this journey, we will explore practical tasks, design ideas, and exercises that are inspired by nature's breathtaking beauty. The objective is to create a harmonious fusion of form, line, texture, colour, and pattern, as they seamlessly blend together in a garden designed specifically to uplift your spirit, stimulate your senses, and provide a sanctuary in which to pause and contemplate. This will be your personal garden for healing, transformation, and daily rejuvenation. Let's embark on this journey together, as we nurture your mind, body, and soul through the power of nature.
A Seasonal Garden
The garden as a metaphor
As you take a moment to observe the garden and the seasonal changes in nature around you, you'll notice a beautiful metaphor for your own life. The passing seasons mark a continuous cycle of birth, growth, decay, death, and rebirth – a reflection of our own journeys in this world. The seed signifies the beginning, a representation of our birth. As it sprouts and grows, it mirrors our childhood and progression toward maturity.
We find parallels in the way a garden flourishes, with flowers blooming and producing seeds, akin to our development through puberty and into adulthood. The act of reproduction in plants is symbolic of our own lives when we create the next generation. And as the garden matures, we continue to grow and evolve on our paths as well.
Soon, we must accept the inevitability of decay – a natural part of life, much like the fading flowers and falling leaves in autumn. This gradual decline serves as a reminder that our time in the garden of life is finite and that eventually, it will be the turn of the next generation. Through these cycles, nature teaches us to embrace change and appreciate the beauty in each phase of life.
When the positive growth energy has reached its highest point, the negative or decaying forces begin to rise, and when this has reached its greatest altitude it also begins to decline. When the moon has waxed to its full it begins to wane. This is the changeless Wheel of Life. When forces have reached their climax, they begin to weaken and when natural things have become fully agglomerated, they begin to disperse. After the year’s fullness follows decay, the keenest joy is followed by sadness. This too is the changeless condition of mankind.
Liu Tzu 550BC
The Natural Calendar
Over the years the collective passion for growing food and flowers has probably been the single most important factor in our understanding of nature and how it works. We know we must work with nature, not against it, so when we think about creating a therapeutic garden sanctuary, it is crucial to develop a deeper understanding of the natural world. We can start our creation of a therapeutic garden sanctuary by exploring the many traditions and activities associated with the seasons.
The seasonal map is depicted by an eight-spoke wheel, representing our annual seasonal cycle – a progression of nature’s events.
This seasonal map from the Celtic tradition offers eight energetic gateways to commune with and celebrate the transitions in nature so that you can intentionally cross the threshold to another phase of your journey in harmony with the natural world. The Natural Calendar or Wheel of the Year is marked by the four fixed quarter points winter/summer solstice and spring/autumn equinox – and the cross-quarter points – Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane, and Lammas- also known as the great fire festivals.
In the southern hemisphere, the eight festivals are celebrated across these thresholds:
Winter Solstice – 20-23rd June
Imbolc – end of July / beginning of August (marks the passing of winter and the
coming of spring)
Spring Equinox – 20-23rd September
Beltane – end of October / beginning of November (brings fertility and fecundity.
It marks the end of spring and the coming of summer)
Summer Solstice – 20-23rd December
Lammas – end of January / beginning of February (give thanks for the first harvest
of corn and the impeding harvest of berries and fruits and celebrates the passing of
summer and the coming of autumn)
Autumn Equinox - 20-23rd March
Samhain – end of April / beginning of May (marks the end of autumn. It
anticipates the coming of darkness, celebrating the approach of winter)
Winter - a sense of incompleteness
Traditions and activities
Winter begins at Samhain, and the festival of Autumn ends. In the Northern Hemisphere, Halloween is celebrated. In the Southern Hemisphere, we don't tend to mark the time with any celebration, though there is no reason why we shouldn't.
At the farm we are finished celebrating the end of harvest (which occurs at the end of March and the beginning of April). My roses and peonies had finished flowering and have now been put to bed over the winter. It's been time to gather in the firewood, harvest the last of the pumpkins from the vine, take stock, and move our living and playing inside where it’s warmer. It's also a time for reflection on the year’s growth, going back to my intentions and reviewing the ways they manifested during the year. It is a time for taking stock of what is working and what’s not as the year moves towards the winter period of fallowness and rest.
The winter solstice marks an incredible turning point in nature, a time when the shortest days and longest nights command the world. With growth halted by the cold and darkness, one might think that life itself is on hold. But, hidden beneath this icy veil, the miracle of renewal is taking place. As the days gradually lengthen, the spark of new life ignites, just waiting to emerge and transform the landscape. Embrace this opportunity for reflection, rejuvenation, and the promise of brighter days ahead.
Last week, I planted the last of my bulbs - daffodils including scented varieties, muscari, scented tulips, alliums, bluebells, and freesias. I will wait now until spring when their green shoot start to appear.
In winter, all is dormant like this old apple tree, that hardly seems to move. Growing slowly, it is the embodiment of death and at the same time, continuing life.
At this time of the year, the garden literally becomes a sanctuary for foraging birds. Native and resident species return to their overwinter homes, and the shrubs and hedges are still full of fruiting hips and berries. Native marsupials are still active in the bush, and they usually visit the garden after dark.
Cold and frost it may be, but beneath the surface, the garden is still teeming with life. Don’t clear up too much. Leave some flower beds to die back naturally. Piles of leaves and debris will shelter spiders, insects, reptiles, and smaller mammals.
In winter, a garden sanctuary can bring peace, light, and beauty to any home. It can also be a refuge for birds and other wild animals during the colder months. With proper planning and maintenance, a garden sanctuary can be a lasting source of beauty and joy, even in the coldest of winter days. By providing food, water, shelter, and nesting sites, we can all play a part in creating a winter home for these little critters. Ultimately, we can create both a refuge for nature and a place of wonder to enjoy ourselves. So why not embrace winter and create your very own garden sanctuary? The opportunities for beauty and wonder are endless.
Let us close with this thought from naturalist John Muir: “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” Creating a garden sanctuary is one great way to find that beauty and serenity in every season.
I hope you enjoy the rest of the month
P.S. Towards the end of the month I will also be posting a monthly newsletter where I will be reviewing the month and adding links so you read more about certain topics that interest me such as:
Ways to Well-Being (activities to do in your garden)
Planting for color, texture, scent, form, and patterns.