Let the Garden Restore You
Sometimes life leaves us feeling terribly depleted. How do you fill yourself back up? One way is to embrace nature. You can simply find a patch grass, lie flat on your back and gaze at the sky without thought of time. You can get in your car and find a place to hike. Or you can go into your garden, a friend’s garden or a public garden and mindfully engage all your senses. Notice the bird calls, insects buzzing, water sounds or wind blowing through the leaves. Observe the textures and colors of the foliage and flowers. Can you smell something sweet or earthy? Taste an edible leaf or flower. Slip off your shoes and become aware of how the soil feels under your bare feet.
Gardens are more powerful than you may think. More often than I’d like, I talk with people who have no use whatsoever for gardens or any part of being outside in nature. My hope is that they will change their minds one day. Would you believe me when I say that you can sooth your stress levels by simply being in a garden?
In 2005 I led a series of meetings with a group of women in a drug recovery center. The theme of the meetings was Trust and Developing Intuition. In the beginning, they were each pretty shut down but through the weeks of using plants and plant materials for all sorts of activities, such as the blindfolded garden walk being led by another woman (who they might not have liked at the time) and decorating their own journal using pressed flowers, each of these women changed for the better. They became much more aware of their surroundings, their energy became more serene and they started to realize the power of flowers and plants. On the last day of class, the one woman who had refused to write in her journal came into the classroom when everyone else was gone. I was kneeling on the floor at the time and she tossed her journal to me and said, “I decided to listen to my intuition and trust you with this.” She had written in her journal. Two pages! Wow! I didn’t make this happen, working and playing with the plants achieved for this woman what no other person ever could.
There’s no need to blindfold yourself while walking in a garden but when you close your eyes once in awhile and use your other senses, your experience will be greatly enhanced. Keep your eyes closed while you pet the soft texture of Stachys byzantina (Lamb’s Ears) or gently rub a pansy flower’s velvety smoothness across your cheek. Stay still, listen, and inhale deeply.
Fragrance in the garden has the power to make you time travel. Maybe smelling the tiny purple flowers of Viola odorata (Sweet Violet) brings you right back inside your grandmother’s house or the spicy scent of carnation reminds you of cinnamon cookies in the oven or smelling a gardenia places you right back in that happy time when you smelled those intoxicating flowers for the first time!
You don’t need a large garden to soothe yourself. Beauty and sensory experiences can be created in containers too! Place the containers in locations where you pass by often, such as the entryways to your house and garage. As you pass by brush your hand across the foliage or pause and smell the flowers. You may be surprised by how this slight pause in your day refreshes you.
Here are just a few plant suggestions for creating your own restorative garden:
Texture (plants that make you want to reach out and touch their flowers or foliage)
Coleonema pulchellum ‘Sunset Gold’
Fragrant Leaves or Flowers
Myrtus communis (Myrtle)
Lavender (leaves and flowers)
Scented Geraniums (Fragrant Leaves)
Satureja douglasii (Yerba buena)
Freesias (yellow and white)