After the anxiety of six months of lockdown, many of us are looking for ways to relax. Designing your own personal peace garden, with plenty of green plants and other peaceful elements, can offer calm.
Here are some of the important elements for a peace garden, including water, flowers and a tree.
A quiet space
Find a secluded spot that blocks out noise, such as a courtyard alongside the house or set among foliage. For a long-term solution, consider planting suitable trees on your property’s boundary. They filter noise and pollution. A hedge would suit a smaller garden. Create a space to exhale.
Peace gardens often convey a journey – a call to leave behind the baggage of the past.
A pathway which leads to a place of rest, with a statue, water feature or sundial at the end, encourages one to reflect and rest a while.
In a larger garden, a labyrinth or spiral pathway encourages a reflective or meditative walk where you can clear your mind and let go of stress and tension. Unlike a maze, where the hedges are high, a labyrinth is open and low to the ground. You can construct one using stones.
In a smaller space, consider a Japanese Zen garden or dry landscape, called a karesansui. The process of raking the gravel is said to take the gardener’s mind off concerns and promote calm thoughts and mindfulness.
Water features and a place to rest
Water has a way of bringing calm but it is also life-giving in the garden and even a small feature attracts wildlife and increases your garden’s biodiversity. A small pond or traditional fountain creates a focal point in a small to medium garden. Harvest rainwater for your feature.
For ponds, consider aquatic plants such as the blue water lily (Nymphaea nouchali var. caerulea) or waterblommetjie (Aponogeton distachyos).
Plant water-loving plants between the pond margin and the garden. Consider red hot poker (Kniphofia spp.), Cape thatching reed (Elegia tectorum) or pink marsh dissotis (Dissotis canescens).
For a courtyard garden, a reflecting pool, with a glassy dark surface, creates a sense of serenity and provides a quiet space to unwind.
Find a spot, under trees, at the end of a pathway or alongside a water feature to place a garden bench. A bench in a material of your choice creates a place for reflection and rest.
Plants as symbols of peace
What plants should you consider for your peace garden?
There are numerous plants which include the word “peace” in their common name, such as the peace lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii) or peace-in-the-home (Soleirolia soleirolii).
However, the following plants are associated with remembrance, unity and peace in society:
The use of the olive tree as a symbol of peace dates back to ancient Greece where winners at the Olympic Games were crowned with olive wreathes.
Olive trees grow best in full sun in gravelly soil that drains well. They are drought-tolerant trees that are also able to withstand strong winds. In small gardens you can grow an olive tree in a container. Fruit takes about four years.
The red poppy (Papaver rhoeas) grew on the battlefields of World War I, as depicted in Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae’s poem In Flanders Fields.
White poppies where introduced in 1933 by a women’s anti-war movement to symbolise peace and pacifism. The poppy, Papaver nudicaule, commonly known as the Iceland poppy, is by far the easiest poppy variety to grow locally. Their crèpe-like flowers come in pastel mixes of white, yellow, peach and pink as well as traditional mixes with orange and red flowers. Plant seedlings in May to bloom in spring and choose an east-facing, sunny bed.
It is an international symbol for romance, protection and peace. It thrives in a climate with hot summers and wet winters, making it an ideal candidate for Cape gardens. Plant lavender bushes in a position where they receive morning or afternoon sun. Soil should be well-draining. Lavender is a great hedging plant along pathways.
The famous hybrid tea rose “Peace” was launched at the end of World War II and over 150 million Peace roses have been sold worldwide since then.
The rose was coincidentally named on the same day that Berlin fell in 1945. The Peace rose has large blooms in a mix of cream and yellow with pink-blush tips. Foliage is healthy and glossy and blooms are strongly fragrant.
Plant roses where they receive at least six hours of sun daily.