Get cozy and comfortable in the garden
Story and Photos by Rebecca Stoner Kirts
It is quite unfortunate that many gardeners never take the time to enjoy what they have “sown,” and I am no exception. Last summer I had several groups touring the gardens, and of course, I nearly killed myself trying to prepare my spaces to perfection. But in my eyes, they had not reached that pinnacle. However, much to my excitement, everyone raved about the beauty of each garden. I don’t think they even noticed what I perceived as glaring flaws. That was my ah-ha moment.
Along with this realization, I have been touched by the fact that every night, when my two-year-old grandbaby Tallulah puts on her warm pajamas, she proclaims this is “cozy and comfortable.” Her enthusiasm for being in this state of mind got my wheels turning. How can I create that cozy and comfortable feeling in my garden? How can I create areas that beg me to linger, stay a while – be cozy and warm?
So I came up with a list of ideas I plan to try to incorporate into my gardens, hopefully, to help me relax and enjoy my spaces. I want to get cozy and comfortable in my backyard without putting on my pajamas.
Hardscape elements can add instant charm to any area. This is, of course, much more efficient when done first. Fire pits, stone walls, water fountains, statuary, and paths create a permanent foundation for your favorite trees, shrubs, vegetable beds, and flowers. The gurgling sound of running water from a fountain, or flames lighting up the scene from a fire pit, add ambiance to any space. They both take comfort and cozy to new heights. Adding these elements to an existing garden can be a bit more difficult, but worth the effort.
When planning garden rooms, I suggest taking a comfortable chair out into the garden, or potential garden space, and sit. Move it around to find the best vistas. Be sure to have a notebook to sketch and take notes. It is good to observe while seated in the garden space looking out, as well outside looking in. What makes you smile or entices you to stay a while. Where is shade for more comfort? Where can you best view wildlife in the gardens? By taking time to observe and be mindful, the perfect place can be discovered.
Always plan for a variety of sitting options. Get creative: repurpose a flea market find, such as an old chair or iron daybed; take a cue from nature and create a stone bench; even better, use a large stump from a fallen tree. Provide a table or other flat surface for your favorite beverage. Remember, you’re creating a place to relax and enjoy the garden.
I think it is an excellent idea to have themes, or at least character or style, for different spaces. For example, a meandering path amongst old-fashioned flowers is ideal for a cottage-style garden, but would not be appropriate for a more formal Japanese-style garden.
Because I love discovering a garden’s history, I believe historical aspects should be preserved. In my yard, I unearthed an old stacked-stone wall that was initially an icehouse. I designed that particular garden area around the stones and the wetness of the space. It is one of my favorite areas to sit on hot nights, as it is the coolest spot outside.
If you desire a secret garden spot, shrubs, walls, and trellises can be used to create a feeling of seclusion. If you want to use a fence, why not make it a living fence?
Is there anything better than a romantic dinner in the potager? This garden contains all the elements that I enjoy in a garden – fruit trees, grape and raspberry vines, veggies, herbs, and aromatic flowers. Not enough basil in the salad? Just reach down and snip a few more leaves!!
Do not waste the potential garden space of a gazebo, deck, or pergola. Fill these areas with lush plants overflowing their pots, perhaps of the most fragrant variety. Add comfy chairs with colorful cushions for the perfect spot to relax and rejuvenate. And please do not waste an excellent terrace or porch. Use a trellis on one side to grow a quick growing annual vine to give it a secluded feel.
What other elements make people want to linger? Incorporate soft lighting, such as flickering candles. If you are lucky, perhaps lightning bugs will add to the glow. Bring out some music or just enjoy the music provided by Mother Nature.
Hygge, Lykke, and Wabi-sabi
I have been recently intrigued by these three concepts. Two of these originated from the happiest and most content culture in the world, the Scandinavians. The 3rd one is Japanese and has some roots in Buddhism.
Hygge is a Danish concept that has been described as a quality of coziness and comfort that imparts a feeling of con-tentment and well-being. This article could actually be considered a “how-to” for creating a sense of hygge in your garden.
Lykke is the Danish word for happiness. One aspect of attaining lykke is a feeling of togetherness, a sense of com-munity. I must admit that making a garden cozy and comfortable makes me want to share it with all my friends and family. I am happiest when I have others enjoying my outdoor spaces with me.
Wabi-sabi is “the art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in earthiness, of revering authenticity above all.” Learning to accept the natural way my garden changes and then finding happiness and contentment promotes warm and cozy feelings in the garden. By embracing these beliefs, I will always be comfortable and cozy in my out-door spaces.
Griggs Lawrence, Robyn. “Wabi-Sabi: The Art Of Imperfection.” Utne Reader, Sept. 2001, www.utne.com/mind-and-body/wabi-sabi.