People often seek bright and lively gardens with space to entertain being the prime requirement. There may also be a need for a quiet place where you can suspend a busy or stress-filled life and just slow down. Such a place can be designed to engage the senses and to encourage taking time to simply observe that which is present.
You may choose to sit still, either bathed in sunshine, or perhaps on a seat beneath an arch that carries foliage. Depending on the season it may be leafy or just a tangle of bare winter stems – nevertheless there is privacy and a place where nature can begin to reveal itself.
You may first become aware of the plants about you and begin to appreciate not only colour but shape. Plants may not excite with bright colours but rather soothe as you study their form and texture. You start to notice leaves that are shiny or smooth, rounded, jagged or angular in shape. Large textured leaves as well as very tiny ones can be intriguing. Plants with variegated foliage can vary in their detail from leaf to leaf, so each seems an individual fingerprint.
By this time you may have caught the attention of a robin that will assess you with a sharp discerning eye. The garden may begin to come alive as you become aware of moving and shifting foliage. As well as any scrimmage around a bird feeder you may (if you are lucky and remain still) sense the movement of foraging creatures and can even forgive a blackbird for tossing debris onto your recently brushed patio. There may be busy bees and other insects just getting on with their lives. There may be tiny sounds that you can’t identify.
Air will touch your skin and you may hear snatches of birdsong and catch elusive drifts of fragrance or aroma. The more you settle into stillness, the more you will connect with the natural world.
Here are ideas for plants that can contribute to your sense of wellbeing in your quiet place.
There are many plants with interesting leaves: The rounded crinkle-edged leaves of Alchemilla mollis. The smooth angled leaves of hollies, especially the evergreen foliage of Ilex cornuta. Observe the large ribbed leaves of Hosta ‘August Moon’ and the tiny busy leaves of Thymus ‘Silver Posie’. There are also the questing fingers of Japanese maples such as Acer japonicum ‘Aconitifolium’ and the smooth bell-shaped leaves of Cotinus ‘Candy Floss’.
In sunny gardens you can enjoy the soft waving shape of Stipa tenuissima. The weeping Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ against the rigid upright lines of Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ and, space permitting, the shifting, spangling glory of Stipa gigantea. Catch the aroma of sticky-leaved Cistus ladanifer with a balsam-like fragrance that is especially noticeable in the mornings. Feel the soft woolly foliage of Ballota acetabulosa, or even that unmistakable aroma of curry from the foliage of Helichrysum italicum!
In shady spots you can relish the extraordinary marbled foliage of Arum italicum subsp. italicum ‘Marmoratum’, the shiny kidney-shaped leaves of ground-hugging Asarum europaeum and the silvered foliage of the small fastidious fern Athyrium niponicum var. pictum ‘Pewter Lace’. Enjoy the subtle pattern on the large heart-shaped leaves of Brunnera macrophylla ‘Langtrees’ and the textured mounds of Epimediums with patterned spring foliage such as Epimedium x youngianum ‘Roseum’. Finally, in winter, the subtle beauty of Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna ‘Purple Stem’ which has shiny lance-shaped leaves on purple-flushed stems as well as tiny, exquisitely scented flowers.
All of the plants featured in this article are available to view in our Garden for pleasure plant finder where you will find more detailed descriptions and care instructions.
Enjoy Being in your garden.
Susan A. Tindall
Susan A. Tindall