I’ve mentioned one of my major goals this year is to create a peaceful garden that’s lush and abundant, provides habitats, weather protection and a mystical threshold. And the goal for Q1 2020, is to plan and start landscaping it.

design a peaceful garden
Cottage and Garden by Rev. John D Robertson, c. 1897. via State Library Victoria

So, I’ve been reading some books about Edna Walling gardens, mainly because I’ve seen what’s left of some and they’re still peaceful gardens.

Designing a Garden

The most useful thing I have EVER read on garden design comes from a collection of unpublished Walling writings edited by Margaret Barret. That I read just last month.

  1. It starts with some kind of existing feature within the landscape. Walling is not specific, but it could be something like the lay of the land, or a large tree, or a particular view you want to capture.
  2. Additionally, there will be “problems” that need solutions. Such as creating shade or hiding the ugliness of things like sheds, fences and rubbish bins.
  3. You’ll need places to sit, relax and enjoy the pictures (or views) you’re creating through the design.
  4. The design as a whole should be in keeping with the identified feature. So if your feature is a formal pond with fountain, then the rest of the garden should be formal too.

Key Concepts

Collecting the information from that book, together with A Gardener’s Log, and The Vision of Edna Walling, garden must-haves include:

  • Pictures: at its most basic level, things to look at from windows and strategically placed garden seats. Also to make the garden look and feel larger than it is
  • Wildness: places in the garden where seeds can blow in and take root and surprise you. Like me and the poppies popping up everywhere this year.
  • Shade trees: both for the house and somewhere cool to sit in the garden. Also good for possum and bird habitats, though she doesn’t mention that.
  • Drought resistance: should be self-explanatory.
  • Water: a pool or pond or some other kind of feature. Partly because they’re still and reflective, and partly for the wildlife they attract.
  • Erosion protection: local wildflowers and creepers to keep the soil where it ought to be.
  • Architecture: something pretty to look at, and manage the landscape, e.g., walls, paths, pergolas and sculptures.
  • Consideration of users: e.g., children, pets, chickens.
  • Minimal upkeep: mainly because it’s nicer to relax and enjoy the pictures. Though if you enjoy pruning and mowing and weeding and what-not, then you go for it!

Designing my Peaceful Garden

So going back to the beginning, thinking about my location and what I think makes for a peaceful garden.

  1. My garden has a good size eucalypt in the centre of the space I’ll be working on this year, as well as a couple of other established trees. This suggests to me an informal, natural style native garden. And we are part way there already.
  2. I’d like to conceal the fences, shed and bins. I’d also like to grow some privacy from the two-storey house across the road, as well as get some more shade in the Northwest. Plus we need something to help stabilise the banks.
  3. Add some secluded nooks for relaxing and enjoying the space. And I’d LOVE a larger water feature for the frogs.
  4. Habitat for bees and other insects, lizards, possums, and birds, bearing in mind Pretty Girl’s established patrol boundaries. Not that she’s up for much patroling lately.
  5. And some complementary art, maybe from Shades of Grey.
  6. All of this, drought tolerant when established, and requiring minimal maintenance, because I’m right there with Edna when it comes to enjoying, not working on, the garden.

The Next Steps

The next thing to do is measure the space, and start plotting out what activities we might do in which spaces, and take some advice on planting.

I’m quite excited – peaceful garden here we come!

Have you undertaken any major work on your garden? Care to share what you learned with me?


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