Therapeutic gardening is not a new concept,
but it is becoming more widely accepted,
For more nature habitat information
Visit these helpful websites: and there is a new understanding
that where you garden can be as important
as what you do there.
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Sanctuary garden, retreat, Gardening, whether for
soul garden, refuge: whatever physical or spiritual
you choose to call them, these sustenance, is a pastime as old
private areas provide a chance as history itself. Many religious
to meditate, relax, and traditions used a garden
decompress, away from the setting to represent both the
sights and sounds of the beginning and end of life.
According to Chuck and
Not only are they becoming Barbara Crandall, authors of
more popular; some today would Creating Privacy in the Garden,
even call them necessary. “Our passion for private garden
retreats is as old as civilization
Human beings have itself, stretching back across
traditionally maintained a close the millennia to the earliest
relationship with the soil. The vestiges of Pharaonic Egypt."
creation myths of most
societies and religions Depending on your source, the
encompass a belief that English word “paradise" comes
humankind came originally from from the Persian word for
the earth. “beautiful fenced-in garden" or
from the Greek word
According to the ancient paradeisos, meaning “enclosed
Greeks, Prometheus shaped park."
man from mud. In Hebrew,
“Adam" means “born of the Murals from ancient Egypt
earth." Many native Americans depict walled gardens, and
portrayed man as coming from medieval religious groups are
deep inside Mother Earth. known to have grown their food
© WindStar Wildlife Institute Page 1 A Plant's Home
behind walls to isolate the As Donald Norfolk writes in
monks from the distractions of The Soul Garden“People need
, Some gardeners seem
the outside world. gardens today more than ever unable to fully enjoy their
before. In an increasingly gardens, so caught up
With the rise of cities, even in frenetic age they offer a vital are they in the latest
ancient times, this closeness to source of comfort and an skirmish with mildew or
the soil began to fade. opportunity for mental, beetle...
physical, and spiritual renewal." My philosophy is: Forget
In modern days, rather than winning, cultivate delight.
seeing ourselves as “stewards" He goes on to say, “As a race
– Diane Ackerman
or caretakers of the earth, we have inhabited planet earth Cultivating Delight
nature became something which for at least two million years.
needed to be controlled and For 99 percent of this time we
managed to our own advantage, led a nomadic existence. It is have less open space for
and we were more likely to view only in the last ten thousand shelter or raising a family, we
it from a distance, both years that we have mastered build taller buildings. For all our
physically and mentally. the art of farming and learned needs, we have options not
to live in towns. This is a mere available to other species.
Today, the pendulum is blink in the annals of recorded
gradually swinging back. The time. Deep down we still feel
intensity of modern life and the displaced, and yearn to regain
pace of technology, particularly contact with our pastoral
in America, is forcing us to re- roots."
evaluate our lives. Not only are
but so is
have the same
we do to help
Food is rarely
limited or even
us, since we
world in our
water is so
it comes in
flavors! If we
© WindStar Wildlife Institute Page 2 A Plant's Home
To re-establish true harmony Sometimes a narrow side yard
with the earth, a sanctuary can be developed into a retreat.
garden should also be a
welcoming place for wildlife. Some people choose to build
Sometimes this calls for a bit walls or fences within a larger
of compromise, but the trade- area, and these can both create
offs are worth it. By not using privacy and provide support to
any herbicides or pesticides, taller plants or climbing vines. If
you agree to accept a few structures are made of
munched leaves in exchange for materials like stone or wood,
butterflies and other beneficial they will fit the natural feel of
insects. the garden.
When you choose native Other gardeners prefer to use
plants over alien species, you plants, such as hedgerows or
agree to surround yourself with evergreens, to create the
a different, although equally nature, instead of trying to borders of their sanctuary and
beautiful, palette of texture and control it, is that there are no form a backdrop to shorter
color in exchange for birds which losers. elements. Whatever you choose,
eat the seeds and berries. The the result should give you a
true beauty of working with There can be no specific feeling of safety and separation
directions on how to build a from outside pressures.
sanctuary garden, because the
design, and even the process of You might also be creating
creation, will be different for this garden with other
every gardener, as well as for inspirations in mind. If you need
every site. more lightness and humor in
your life, add touches of whimsy
Thus, every sanctuary garden
is unique, although it will
generally incorporate certain
basic elements. It will naturally
be suited to the space available,
but it should also be very
personal, reflecting individual
preferences and needs.
Creating Your Sanctuary
Deciding where to locate your
sanctuary is the first step in
creating your garden.
It need not be large, but the
area should lend itself to being
somewhat confined, whether
visually or physically.
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such as brightly-colored chairs Once inside, there should be a
or silly sculptures hidden among path to lead you to a bench or
the leaves. To honor the memory other comfortable seat where
of a loved one, plant their you can relax and gradually
favorite flowers, or a special merge with your surroundings.
Your sense of taste can be
Think about any others who satisfied with edible berries and
will be using the retreat. Those herbs. Nothing is sweeter than
who are visually impaired will just-picked fruit warmed by the
appreciate a concentration of sun.
scented plants. If someone
uses a wheelchair, make the Herbs can also entice your There are manufactured units
path smooth and easy to sense of smell as you brush which produce ponds and
navigate, and consider using against them. Footsteps fountains of any size, or you
raised planting beds. release the fragrance of can create your own with just a
creeping thyme planted along plastic liner or a combination of
Many designers of garden garden pathways. containers and a recirculating
retreats firmly believe that pump.
your sanctuary should have a Every gardener knows the
distinct entryway. If you pleasure of smelling damp Even a bucket with a small
always stop to pause at this earth, especially after a spring hole in the bottom, dripping into
same spot, picturing yourself rainfall. All of your senses, a saucer below, will attract
leaving your stress outside as stimulated and working wildlife and bring the music of
you go through, the ritual will together, will help you to become water to your retreat.
become automatic and a aware of the many facets of
sense of peace will begin to your sanctuary garden, and If your space is large enough,
heal your spirit as soon as you make you feel a part of the consider scattering water
step into the garden itself. nature surrounding you. elements throughout the
garden. All creatures need
available water throughout the
Water is Critical year, and the more varied the
While the various elements of
your retreat will depend on your
preferences and the space that
you have available, you should
definitely include at least one
water feature. This might be a
bird bath, a small fountain, or
just a shallow bowl of water
near a bench which reflects the
clouds and colors of light.
Moving water is especially
effective. It is important for
wildlife, and adds a comforting
sound to the garden.
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By choosing native plants,
"The more time we spend you’ll also be helping to restore
in natural surroundings, an ecological balance which is
the more we acquire the threatened by development and
attributes of nature. Our alien species.
lives take on the qualities
of our environment, Wildlife depends on native
becoming more ordered, plants for food and cover, and
stable, and harmonious." may not be able to adapt to
– Donald Norfolk non-native substitutes.
The Soul Garden
Mitchell also points out that
“If every homeowner in the
presentation, the more diverse country gave only 1/10 of an
will be the wildlife that you acre to a meadow, bog, marsh,
attract. prairie, field, or woodland, the
net gain would be an
astonishing 3.8 million acres of
Select Native Plants sanctuary."
Plants will probably make up "Plants are part of the
the largest part of your garden. Each sanctuary garden that food chain for the insects
Whenever possible, choose we create is an opportunity to and animals that live in our
native plants when making your increase habitat for native gardens....In deliberately
selections. plants and animals, and they in providing sanctuary for the
turn will enhance our experience creatures around us, we
The native species will attract of the garden. must also provide the plants
the most wildlife, and will require that wildlife know."
the least care, because they When choosing plants, mimic
– Sherry Mitchell
are genetically adapted to live nature by selecting a variety of Creating Sanctuary
in your environment. species, sizes, and types. Your
choices can enhance the
garden, at the same time that
they encourage wildlife to visit.
"Water is a key to
sanctuary. Its sacred
influence over human
history is unmatched
among all other natural
Lose this vital force, and
Earth becomes just
another barren rock
circling the sun."
– Christopher and Tricia McDowell
The Sanctuary Garden
© WindStar Wildlife Institute Page 5 A Plant's Home
Although economics may comfortable seat, situated so
Time in the garden – require that you buy some that you can easily view a focal
experiencing the moment, plants when they’re relatively point.
the pause between the small, keep their mature height
breath; fully being in the in mind when placing them in the Particularly in our western
moment; letting go of garden. culture, we equate work with
fear, stress, and any profit and even with morality. In
feeling of incompleteness Don’t neglect to plant larger a sanctuary garden, if you
– links us with eternity. species, even if it will be many constantly feel that you must
years before they mature. They be working, you’ve simply
We can then appreciate will be your legacy to future brought the pressures of the
and celebrate all that we generations. outside world in with you, and
have by being truly you will be unable to lose
present. With all of this concentration yourself in those sights and
on designing and maintaining sounds of nature that you’ve
– Elizabeth Murray a sanctuary, it is important incorporated into your refuge.
Cultivating Sacred Space
not to lose sight of your main
objective: to lessen stress.
Let Your Senses Absorb Nature
Evergreens provide visual We humans have altered our
winter interest and cover for normal cycles with electricity
wildlife, while deciduous species that lets us work in the dark,
bring color to the garden in caffeine which wakes us up when
autumn and movement as the our bodies crave sleep, and a
leaves fall, leaving bare tendency to even work hard at
branches as living sculptures. planning and “enjoying" our
Seedheads left in place after
flowers bloom will artfully Our time in the garden should
catch the snow while offering have periods when we lose
natural birdseed. Vines can If you enter your garden ourselves in the tasks of
provide both cover and food, retreat thinking only of the work weeding and watering, but even
and their twisting stems add that needs to be done, then you more important are those
sculptural details to a wall or will have lost track of the main periods when we sit quietly and
arbor. reason for creating it. let all of our senses absorb the
nature surrounding us.
While the garden work itself –
Build a Plant Community the digging and weeding and A sanctuary garden can help
Your goal should be layers of watering – can be part of the us return to the normal
plant material, rising up from relaxation process, there also patterns of nature.
perennials and grasses, into needs to be time for idleness.
shrubs and small trees, and Frequently it’s people who
finally to taller trees. This is frequently a hard already have a yard who start
concept for gardeners to envisioning a sanctuary garden,
You are striving to create a embrace, and it is one of the but those with less space – for
plant community, not a series main reasons that you should instance, apartment or condo
of specimen plants. include a bench or other dwellers – are often the ones
© WindStar Wildlife Institute Page 6 A Plant's Home
with the greatest need for a so that your eyes travel along at each side to hold vines
quiet retreat. curved lines, stopping at small which will cover the structure,
sculptures or other focal adding interest and shade.
If your space is limited, you points, delighting in the variety
can still create a sanctuary on of colors, shapes, and textures.
a smaller scale. Lattice panels Candles and Lights
or bamboo blinds form walls on Be sure to include some herbs In the evening, if you don’t
a deck or patio, a small or other scented plants, have a view of the night sky,
tabletop fountain provides perhaps just beside the door candles or small strings of
water, and gentle wind chimes where you will brush against lights can add a comforting
mask surrounding sounds. them, creating an entrance glow. The size of a sanctuary
distinguished by scent instead garden is less important
Buy plants that provide of a gate. than the attitude that you
diversity: variegated leaves, bring to it, and your
You might be able to add a willingness to let nature work
small arching arbor, with pots its magic on you.
spiky foliage, different heights,
lots of color. Flowers will
attract butterflies and
hummingbirds, and large pots
can hold miniature trees or
shrubs which bear fruit for
If you add a bird-house
appropriate for local species,
you might have the thrill of
watching new life born into your
While a smaller-
scale garden might
not have room for a
walking path, you
can arrange your
chair and plantings
© WindStar Wildlife Institute Page 7 A Plant's Home
The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely, or
unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can
be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature, and God...
As long as this exists, and it certainly always will,
I know that then there will always be comfort for every
sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I
firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles. This article was written by
Maryland Master Wildlife
– Anne Frank Habitat Naturalist
It is natural at this time to be focused on the horrendous events For more information or for the
of September 11, 2001, but a wider perspective acknowledges that name of a Master Wildlife
Habitat Naturalist in your area,
countless tragedies, both larger and smaller, have occurred please contact:
throughout human history.
WindStar Wildlife Institute
In response, people everywhere, in every generation, have looked for
solace in natural surroundings, particularly in gardens. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The cycles of nature we see there remind us that life itself will
continue, regardless of what we may have lost in the past, or what WindStar Wildlife Institute is a
faces us in the future. national, non-profit
whose mission is to help
As you create and enjoy your own retreat, may you find healing individuals and families
and comfort and a deep acceptance of your own connection to the establish or improve the wildlife
habitat on their properties.
world of nature.
© WindStar Wildlife Institute Page 8 A Plant's Home