The New Trend in Home Gardens—Landscaping to Calm Anxiety
Whispering grass, the lapping of a fountain, the mesmerizing crunch of gravel underfoot – Japanese priests have cultivated contemplative plans for centuries. Now home-bound Americans seeking diversion and escape are building home gardens that evoke some of this eastern horticultural wisdom.
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At Soothing Company, a St. George, Utah retailer that specializes in exterior decor, fountain sales grew 35% year-over-year in 2020. And when Burpee, a plant and seed supplier in Warminster, Pennsylvania, bored a 30% increase in sales between 2019 and 2020, a pattern emerged: buyers were looking for plants that exuded calm. Sales increased for ornamental grasses and for flowers in historically less popular colors such as white and light blue. Burpee declared “quiet gardens” to be a trend for 2021.
“The soft rustling of bamboo gives the garden soothing noises, similar to a fountain.”
What is the difference between an oasis of calm and a typical garden? A more immersive experience. “Your attention is focused on sights, sounds, smells, textures – and the more multi-sensory you do something, the less likely you are to think about work,” said Dr. Giulia Poerio, a psychology researcher who focuses on emotions and emotional wellbeing at the University of Essex, England. How to Build Your Botanical Chill Pill.
Turn down the colors
Loud shades do not encourage serenity. “Red, oranges, and yellows are hot colors that inspire passion,” said New York landscape architect Edmund Hollander, who recommends ditching the other end of the spectrum for serenity. “The gradation from blue to green is almost the color of a stream, with white and creams representing movement, if you will.”
Avoid wide open spaces
“When a view is partially blocked off, you create a sense of perspective and discovery,” said Los Angeles landscape architect Patricia Benner. Designer John Sharp, a colleague of Angeleno, prefers hiking trails that meander through the landscape. He introduces structures with plants such as winding Italian cypress trees or voluminous Mexican bush sage and softens hard edges – fences, walls, sheds, stairs – with lots of green. Mr. Hollander emphasizes the concept of the trip. “You cannot come out of the house and be in this room. You have to go somewhere, even if it’s only three steps. ”
A series of layers add depth and create a sense of discovery as you step into the room, said Chicago landscape architect Ed Hollander of this hidden section of a New York terrace.
“Sitting in a chair next to larger plants makes you feel protected,” said George Ball, chairman of Burpee. Lanky ornamental grasses can protect you well and also dance lazily in the wind. “The kinetic quality of grasses can create a transparent haze that is very nice to look at,” said Ms. Benner. Juli Risner, co-owner of Grounded, a retail and landscape design firm in Encinitas, Calif., Loves the sound quality of clumps of bamboo when it is animated by the breeze. “The quiet rustling gives the garden soothing noises, similar to a fountain.”
Speaking of fountains …
“Nothing creates a greater feeling of peace than the sound of water,” said Mr. Hollander. For his part, Mr Sharp is looking for fountains that reflect the aesthetics of a house – for example, a tall stone fountain adorned with Spanish ceramic tiles and a Mission Revival residence. Similarly, under a river birch canopy on a patio outside a Manhattan apartment, Mr. Hollander placed a pair of weathered zinc bowl fountains that are minimalist enough to reflect the clean lines of the home’s interior.
Opt for organic furniture
Reject cold metals and synthetic materials. Use rattan, wood and sugar cane to underline the earthy theme of the peaceful garden. The interior designer Amanda Norcross from Chicago, co-owner of Norcross + Scott, relies on openly woven materials such as wicker, which can compensate for the stiffness of terraces and stones. Woven furniture also “brings this subconscious connection to the manufacturer,” she said. “It has a life.”
Five decorative elements for outdoors that match the tranquil garden aesthetic. Clockwise from top left: Gartner Teak Lounge Chair, $ 999, cb2.com; Peter Calaboyia’s Vintage Mid-Century Brutalist Metal Sculpture, $ 1,999, Chairish.com; Dash & Albert Veranda Natural Indoor / Outdoor Carpet, $ 1,042 for 5 x 8 feet, annieselke.com; Modern Slate Box Fountain, $ 1,820, Chairish.com; Bover Garota P / 01 outdoor table lamp, $ 1,604, 2modern.com
Take art to your heart
Some hard lines, especially those of sculptures, add to the silence. “It’s important to compare the natural shapes in gardens with controlled structural elements,” said Sharp. He likes rust-colored, totem-like pieces that sometimes stand on a coffee table or along a path. “Creating a side-by-side line creates an unexpected dimension level.” Mr. Sharp extends the definition of sculpture to include highly defined plants such as the columnar silver torch cactus.
Hear every step
“I love the structural quality that gravel brings,” said Ms. Benner, who lays it down on sidewalks and patios. “It’s a softer way to get tough.” Loose, organic edges let the green weave in and out. The gentle crunching underfoot contributes to the meditative effect.
Are you working with an existing deck or patio? Knotted outdoor rugs can create the illusion of earth beneath your feet. Mrs. Norcross sees no reason to be angry about the size of the rug. “Identify a seating area and leave [the rug] float in front, not under the legs. “In general, if your quest for backyard zen is going well, you may fret a lot less.
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