Creating a Garden Sanctuary
Design Ideas to Help You Get Started
John Stuart Leslie
Sara grinned as she approached her garden entrance, the gargoyle gazing intently
as she walked through the gated archway. The morning sun brimmed the stone wall just as she sat down on her
carefully positioned bench. Right on cue the rabbits and quail made their way to the feeding spot, sheltered by the
majestic Palo Verde tree. A butterfly hovered so ever close as she noticed a lotus flower petal floating in the
pond. Then -- a gentle breeze awakened the delicate sounds of the wind chime, soothing her spirit.
Sara has a secret garden, a sanctuary where she can go to escape the rigors of daily
life, to read, meditate or watch the sunset. Anyone can create their own sanctuary garden using some selective
design principles. Here’s a quick primer on how to design your own sacred space.
Select a location within your yard that is secluded, away from the main activity
areas. Ideally, the spot will be under the canopy of a tree, screened from view yet provides observation of your
natural views like the mountains or the sunset. Make the space intimate, but enough to support a couple of chairs
or a bench and the plants and accessories within. A trellis with vines can be built to provide screening and a
You may have just the spot. If you have a home in a subdivision with rectangular lots
side by side to your neighbors, make sure your neighbors windows don’t look down onto your space. Be aware of
nearby air conditioner equipment and other mechanical equipment that would be in view, not to mention the noise.
Avoid views of power lines or anything you find objectionable.
Let’s say it’s going to be about 10 x 10 feet or so. This is just enough to handle
your sitting area and perhaps a focal point, small fountain or other unique feature within the space. In order to
create the space, you must create its enclosure by creating the walls. If not using existing fencing or your house
walls, you can create the enclosure with plant material (hedges), wood fencing, block walls or iron work that would
support vine growth or a combination.
Next, decide on the flooring material. It could be formally paved such as
concrete, traditional bricks, or concrete pavers laid in a unique pattern. It could be more casual or rustic as
using fine crushed granite, perhaps with a small area of paving to support the heavier structures. Or use stepping
stones set in the soil with ground cover growing between for a softer look. A checkerboard pattern using 12” square
bricks with clover, moss, grass or creeping Thyme in between is always a popular option.
The space should have a focal point that could be a fountain or perhaps a gazing
globe or statuary. For color, you may consider flowering shrubs, colorful annuals, a uniquely glazed pot or
particular garden art. A pleasing wind chime and a water element such as a small fountain or birdbath will add the
dimensions of sound and movement. Make sure you select colors and accessories that have a special meaning to you.
You could even use an item that is inside your home provided it can withstand the outdoors. A comfortable chair or
bench carefully positioned with a small table will complete the space.
A sanctuary garden is ideally designed to reflect one’s inner emotional needs. The
garden can be a source of strength, renewal, contemplation, appreciation of nature, peace and joyfulness. A
sanctuary having the purpose of functioning as a retreat from a hectic world is easier to design because it has a
single purpose function. All your design and material decisions will be based on how does this contribute to the
sense and feeling of a sanctuary, and how is it special for my needs and tastes?
Creating a garden that functions as a sanctuary can be generic in its elements.
However, you can take it a step further by creating a theme such as “My Tuscan Sanctuary Garden”, “My Hawaiian
Tropical Getaway” or “My Asian Serenity Garden”. Of course, once you get inspired to build such a space, you may
find the motivation to renovate the rest of your yard…