How often do you stop to consider whether your landscape fits your personality, your lifestyle, and even your mood? If you said “not very often” or maybe even “never!” then this post is for you. Or if you do think about it, and find your landscape lacking, perhaps we can inspire you to make a change.
In this final part of a three-part series, we’re taking a look at how to turn a mere “yard” into an outdoor space that becomes an extension of your home. We want you to think about your landscape as more than just a combination of plants and trees with a patio or pathway.
Instead, we want to show you how it can represent your personal style in a way that celebrates your individuality. We want to prove that landscaping isn’t just for spring and summer when everything is in bloom, but something you should enjoy all year long. We want your outdoor space to be a place where you can express yourself and engage in the activities you enjoy most.
Today we want to share ways that your landscape can affect your mood, your emotional state, and your overall wellbeing. Everyone can use a mindset shift once in a while. But only the fortunate will be able to turn to their landscape for help. Here’s how you can be one of those lucky few!
For The Stressed
There’s no shortage of stress and anxiety in the world today. And no matter how positive your outlook, it’s bound to affect you now and again. We all suffer from job woes, health concerns, family disputes, and the occasional existential crisis.
At times like these, your landscape can be a powerful ally. Its benefit can come from something as simple as surrounding yourself with beauty and serenity. Or as profound as disconnecting from your troubles and finding a place of inner peace again.
To make your yard a center for restoration and well being, adding a water element is a great place to start. Water has such soothing properties that it can do everything from easing our minds to actually improving our physical wellness. Just imagine yourself sitting beside a koi pond, taking in the sights, sounds and scents, and you can begin to understand its profound healing power.
Other water features may work just as well for you. A pondless waterfall, a fountain, or a garden bubbler can bring similar benefits to the smallest of spaces. Water features can be enjoyed all year, too – whether running or frozen!
For a stress-free environment, be sure to include plenty of storage space for all the things that would interfere with a peaceful view. Mowers, bikes, kids’ toys, garden hoses, garbage pails – even that ugly electrical box or septic cover – can all be hidden or disguised.
Remember to include seating for relaxing, and pathways for strolling. Surround yourself with the colors you love most, and the garden décor that you enjoy. Don’t be afraid to use reclaimed objects. There’s no rule book that says every planter must be chip-free, or every gnome beautifully polished. Including aged and “well-loved” objects of art and decoration can make you feel grounded to a place.
Remember, also, that stress isn’t a three-season affair. It doesn’t disappear with the last of the blooms in fall, and wait politely for spring to return. That’s why it’s important for your garden to have four-season appeal.
Choose plants that add color, texture, height and depth to your space during different seasons. For winter color, Red Twig Dogwood and Winter Holly will serve you well, as will a beautiful hardscape. Tall ornamental grasses will add texture and motion to soothe all year. And springtime plants like lavender and chamomile have long been proven to have stress-reducing properties.
For The Busy
Sometimes “stress” and “busy” go hand in hand, but either way, the last thing you probably want when you’re experiencing either is more work. If your job has you hopping or the kids have turned you into the neighborhood chauffeur, spending hours keeping up your landscape is probably not on your short list of “fun things to do on a Saturday”.
If you’re perpetually overwhelmed or simply don’t want to be, choose low-maintenance landscape options that look great and free you up to spend time the way you choose.
A naturalistic landscape is a smart way to go for myriad reasons. First, it is designed with native plants, trees and shrubs in mind, which are much easier to grow and care for than temperamental exotics. Native plantings are quite literally designed to thrive in your precise environment, making obsessive weeding-watering-trimming-babying a thing of the past. They are often tolerant of a variety of temperatures, water conditions and wind speeds.
Second, a naturalistic landscape goes light on the lawn – you know, that vast green conspiracy of mower companies everywhere! Lawn is expensive and labor intensive to maintain. It requires watering, feeding and constant care or you know the result – brown weedy patches and pretty bad curb appeal.
Believe it or not, a lovely wildflower garden or ecosystem koi pond are both substantially less work than a big lawn. And they’re more enjoyable, too.
If you’re really crunched for time and want to exert almost zero effort when it comes to maintaining your landscape, you may want to consider a hardscape as your focal point. Natural stone gardens, beautifully designed patios, colorful stepping stones, or decking with plenty of seating and perhaps a fire pit or outdoor kitchen area, will give you space to live and play without all the work.
For The “Stuck”
Whether you’re stuck in the middle of a creative pursuit and the ideas have dried up, or you need an environment that’s conducive for problem solving, your landscape design can have a big impact.
In fact, if all you do is step outside, you’re already ahead of the game. Science has shown again and again that being in a natural environment enhances creativity and problem-solving skills. Chalk it up to being “unplugged” from the tethers of technology and the beckoning of social media. Being outdoors gives your mind a moment to actually think.
You don’t even need anything special to reap the benefits of the outdoors, as long as you’re in a natural environment – urban sidewalks don’t count – where you can connect with the world around you.
Your ability to feel “connected” is personal. For many people, the sight and sound of water offers that grounding experience. For others, a quiet spot surrounded by butterflies, or a patch of favorite vegetables will do the trick.
“Work” is ok, too! If tending your tomatoes engages your attention and clears the cobwebs, by all means get your hands dirty. Other options to consider can include a cooking area where you can experiment with a fresh batch of steaks, or a lap pool or swimming pond for warmer days.
If you’d rather sit and ponder, be sure you’ve included space to do just that. Carve out a cozy nook where you can curl up with your thoughts and a journal. Add a gazebo covered in climbing flowers and vines for a private respite. Don’t overlook the pleasure of a few strategically placed natural boulders that double as seating, providing you a vantage point from which to survey your flower gardens or gaze down at a waterfall into your pond.
For The Blue
When you’re feeling depressed and low, you may turn to a spouse, partner, friend or loved one. You may look for spiritual guidance or find solace in a favorite book. But have you ever turned to your landscape? You should!
There are many intangible reasons to do that, and one very practical one: it turns out that garden soil is a natural anti-depressant. Actually, it’s the bacteria in the soil that does all the work. It’s called Mycobacterium vaccae and it’s a particularly friendly bacteria that’s known to improve mood, sleep and concentration.
In fact, a deficit of this bacteria in our bodies can lead to chronic health problems, inflammation, anxiety and – you guess it, depression. The good news is that you can get a healthy dose just by breathing in the air surrounding your garden. Dig into the soil and you’ll release even more.
If you enjoy gardening, then a trip out to do a little weeding may be just what the doctor ordered. Vegetable gardens – whether mulched plots or raised beds – make a great choice. Otherwise, simply walking through healthy garden soil will help release the bacteria into the air where you can inhale them.
Certain plants are known to alleviate depression, too. Mint is one, as are geranium and roses. At least two of these smell divine, adding to your sense of well being, and all three can be ingested for mood-improving effects.
Lily of the valley is another mood-boosting plant though nobody is quite sure why! It’s been supposed that this delicate flower evokes happy childhood memories and connotes an innocent past. Whatever your pleasure, it’s clear that what you plant matters when it comes to fighting off the blues.
But being outdoors is more than just a science experiment. There are plenty of slightly more mystical but still undeniable ways that nature can soothe the soul. We’ve touched on water as a stress-reducer, and that goes for depression, too. Meditate beside a pond or watch the cascade of a waterfall over stone and it’s harder to hold onto negative feelings.
As anyone who has ever felt confined to a cubicle or stuck in a climate-controlled environment knows, surrounding yourself with beauty can make a big difference in how you feel. What you find beautiful is personal, but the best experiences are multi-sensory.
That means creating a view you can appreciate, whether you’re outside walking a garden path, or watching from a living room window. Ponds, water features, focal points, special artwork and more, should be placed carefully so they can be enjoyed from multiple vantage points and multiple directions.
It means engaging your sense of smell with fragrant blooms. Even the clean smell of running water can be part of a total experience. It means blocking out unwanted noise with natural barriers, like bamboo screening, or shrubbery. It can even mean masking traffic and other noises with a bubbling fountain or waterfall.
It also means including height, depth and texture – from tall, swaying grasses to rough-bark trees. Beautiful colors and even a visit from native birds and butterflies will contribute to your experience.
Combined, all of these elements will contribute to your overall sense of harmony and happiness. A better mood is just outside your window!
We hope that throughout this series we’ve helped you see how your outdoor space can become a vital and integral part of your life. If you’d like to learn more about how you can experience four seasons of enjoyment right in your own yard, contact us for a consultation. We’re here to answer questions, listen to your dreams and make recommendations. Mother Nature is sitting right there, just waiting for you to step out and enjoy her bounty.