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Dream a Space for Dreaming

By Charles Hopkins Published 10/23/2007 | Home Improvement
"When the world wearies and society fails to satisfy, there is always the garden." --Minnie Aumonier

Daydreaming is a well-respected pastime. Not only is it an excellent stress reducer, but also we may have some of our most inspired thoughts while daydreaming. And what better place to daydream than a restful garden?

How do you go about creating the perfect place for this most perfect of pastimes? Why, by daydreaming, of course!

Before you ever lift a spade or buy a plant, take a stroll through your imagination. Let your mind be the space within which you create the garden of your dreams. Play with the possibilities. A little dreaming will uncover those features that will put your personal imprint on the garden and make it the restful place of your dreams.

Here are a few ways to fire your imagination:

Make a list of garden features that you have seen and liked.
Visit public gardens.
Go to the library and look through garden books and magazines.
Search the Internet where proud homeowners post photos of their gardens.
Observe your house and its surroundings. What style does this suggest? Can you echo some of these elements in your garden design?

Now do a little daydreaming. See yourself in the garden reading or playing or entertaining. Stroll around in your mind and notice what elements your imagination places in this space. Pay attention to how you feel. What mood do you want to create?

Next make a list of garden features that appeal to you. Here are some possibilities to get you started:

Patio or deck
Shade and fruit trees
Neat rows of plants or elegant drifts and exuberant patches of color
Stretches of green lawn or fragrant groundcovers
Stepped terrace
Play area
Rock garden or water fountain
Koki pond
Statues and urns
Raised flowerbeds
Pathway lighting
Secluded arbor
Meditation corner
Garden gate or archway

The garden features that appeal to you will have an impact on whether you design a formal or an informal garden. The amount of space you have also will influence whether you lean toward the formal or the informal.

Formal Gardens

A formal garden is highly structured. Think of the carefully manicured gardens of 18th century England. They have a strong central axis and cross axes. Formal gardens comprise straight lines, geometric angles and sharp edges. They use symmetrical pairings that mirror one another and generally have low hedges bordering planting beds. The landscape uses brick and stone and is populated with topiary, ornamental pools, statues and fountains.

Informal Gardens

An informal garden has a more natural look with plants spilling onto paths. Do not, however, let the casual appearance fool you. An informal garden is not a license to forego planning! If paths and plants are scattered willy-nilly, your garden may not engender a sense of restfulness. While an informal garden may appear more natural, it still has a strong ground pattern created through crisply defined beds and strong, well-defined curves. Unlike a formal garden, the focal points are subtler and the patterns more asymmetrical. The landscape uses a wide variety of materials -- both brick and organic materials. There are beds and islands rather than borders.

Larger spaces can support informal sweeps and curves while a structured approach works better if your space is limited. If you have limited space but find a traditional formal garden too uninviting, you can "soften" a formal design by letting plants spill onto the walkway and by using paves bedded on sand or gravel instead of creating intricate brick patterns.

Where space is not a concern, consider a formal garden close to the house and an informal garden beyond.

As you begin identifying how you want your dream space to look -- how you want it to feel -- let your imagination roam free. There will be plenty of time later to hear from your practical, budgetary-conscious left-brain. For now, just brainstorm the possibilities. You just may uncover the one element that will make your garden truly unique.