10 August 2017

Reworked earlier piece to add more definition. Now on display in Remuera Gallery, Auckland.

Symbols in the Healing Garden

When designing your healing garden you can add mystery and interest by including symbolic shapes.  Since ancient times we have been aware of the power of certain geometric shapes to evoke emotions and feelings. The very shape of our garden plot, growing beds and connecting pathways can be chosen with symbolism in mind.
Square shapes hold meaning for many cultures. The four sides refer to the four seasons, four directions or four elements.  In Islamic culture the square shape refers to the heart. in Native American culture the square refers to the four stages of life i.e. birth, growth, maturity and death. We can add the square design to our garden to reference earthly life, security and permanence.
The cross shape is well known as a Christian symbol – the cross on which Jesus died. The Celtic cross with a circle around the middle is thought by some to be a blend of the Christian cross with the earlier Celtic symbol of the seasons. In Islamic culture the cross shape of water channels in garden design refers to the sacred source of water, wine, milk and honey.

I have included square symbols and cross-shaped symbols in my healing garden design in the following ways:

The circular shape is among the oldest symbols. Ancient people the world over have used the circle to represent unity, wholeness, without beginning and end. It is often seen as a protective symbol or a sign of the life giving sun. In Zen Buddhist gardens the circular paths and stones used for meditation symbolise the wholeness of the world.
Spiral symbols are an ancient sign often imbued with feminine associations referencing the cycle of fertility, birth and life. Many ancient cultures from Scandinavian to Chinese refer to the spiral for spiritual purposes, for example the labyrinth walks, the mandala, cosmic spirals and prayer walks. The spiral is found naturally in shells, flowers and crystal formation.

Spiral symbols and circle symbols are chosen for meaning in my healing garden:

Planting in Pots

Adding focal points of interest in your healing garden can be as easy as adding a few pots planted up in interesting ways.  Ordinary plants can be made to look extra-ordinary when placed in a special pot and made a feature of.  Even a sculptural specimen such as this bromeliad (below) is given extra wow factor placed in a large black glazed pot. Elevating the bromeliad also allows the stunning red foliage to be backlit against the sun for extra glowing effect.

Pots in your healing garden
Adding pots as a focal point in your healing garden

A wide shallow pot can be used to show off a tall leafy plant to good effect. This iris is often planted en masse but this one has been given its own stage. There is a pleasing textural contrast between the strappy leaves and the small round leafed ground cover below.

Healing garden pots
Iris in wide shallow pot

In my own healing garden I have included a collection of tiny succulents as a charming vignette. This cute little setting is an artwork in itself and invites restful contemplation

Pot on courtyard table
Tiny succulents in a pot


Create your own healing garden

Imagine the most peaceful, relaxing scene in your mind.  Is it a forest glade with a crystal clear spring edged by ferny greenery; or is it a sunny meadow setting with waving grass and birdsong; or perhaps a secluded walled garden filled with scented plants. These are the types of scenes we often dream of when we are suffering from work burnout, information  overload or commuter  exhaustion.
You can create your own serene sanctuary or tranquil oasis in your garden. Whether you have an existing garden that you want to redesign or an awkward sized unused area on one side of your house, you can transform any part of your garden into a restful retreat. By concentrating on including healing garden design elements that make healing garden unique, you can create your own therapeutic sanctuary.
Your healing garden can serve many purposes. You might use it as a rest and relaxation space, as a spiritual meditation garden or as a contemplation garden. Whatever theme  you choose for your urban retreat, you will find that there are certain design elements you will need to include to give it that tranquil ambience. These design elements include privacy, water features, planting palette and artworks.  Over my next posts I will deal with these design elements in more detail.

Healing garden planting
Backlighting on the pond reeds
Healing garden design
Water feature adds tranquillity