A Serenity Garden

Ilona Erwin

Garden Retreats

Making a peaceful place

Any portion of a garden can become a place of peace and repose, and I think it is well worth making at least a spot in the garden a place of quiet and reflection. Better yet, think of creating a serenity  garden theme especially dedicated to a feeling of calm and relaxed enjoyment.

Many of the accouterments in making this type of retreat would depend on what the gardener finds personally peace-invoking, but there are certain aspects of a garden generally found to be important to a calm and peaceful feeling in an outdoor space. What are some of these?

  • The colors you choose
  • Where you situate the garden
  • Simplicity of the design
  • Inclusion of water
  • A waft of fragrance

Creating the space that is filled with what gives you peace and serenity.

a cloistered garden


Too much color, too many colors, and clashing colors are all going to be highly stimulating to the visual sense. They might even be a bit disturbing! Any color harmony or palette that works as a serene one indoors will work outside in the serenity garden, too.

Calm and Peaceful Harmonies Create Serenity

We all think of green and white as cool, calm, and refreshing, At the same time, any of the variants known as a “white garden” (made famous by Vita Sackville-West, or softly harmonious pastels with gray-foliaged plants could be fine choices, as well.

Stronger color, so long as the palette was minimal and monochrome, could be peaceful and harmonious to your eye if that color gives you pleasure. In this case consider the emotional impact of color.

The Subtle Color Scheme

One color association that I have always liked is the gray and burgundy one. This is a subtle combination done to perfection by Penelope Hobhouse, and I recommend any of her fine books for examples of this color scheme. The interplay of various green and green/white variegated plants with either white flowers or a soft pink is as soothing as a garden can be anywhere.

By The Light Of The Moon

A moon garden- planted to be especially beautiful at night is peaceful both night and day. Simply combine what calms you: colors, times of day, scents, and then you have a start to your plant list and hardscape materials. Perhaps grassy walks, or light gray gravel, are peaceful colors to you. Place your ideas all together on paper.

What is meant by ‘a garden’? “…a place of spiritual repose, stillness, peace, refreshment, delight.”     ~J.H. Newman

Good Reading


Situation of the Serenity Garden

There is something about enclosure that gives one the feeling of quiet, muffling the outside world and shielding your senses from its demands. Even if busy traffic is just outside, plant materials and sheltering fences can remove you from its sight and some of the sound.

Trees, especially, can provide dappled light and a place to welcome birdsong, and vines draping the fences. My own preference is for pruning the trees high or using decorative smaller species, and having sunshine filter through softly. If in a hot climate, perhaps you want strong areas of shade, but think of somehow enclosing your retreat from the rest of the garden and the world.

Serene Simplicity

Keeping the plantings simple in color scheme and using an edited number of contrasting plants will keep things from feeling too distracted. Swathes of large leaved plants, a few types of shrubs, and flowers in groups as ornamentation; or conversely in such large groupings that the eye settles upon the form of the planting, not so much on spotty little dots of competing interest.

Simple structure and a place to sit and enjoy are two requisites. Plan what sort of destination this is for your garden. Just to sit quietly and listen to your own thoughts? a place for reading, for early morning tea? How do you picture this garden, for your time and place of serenity? An evening open view of a sunset or water? An afternoon respite from the the sun in a cool shady nook? Imagine the feeling and create the seating, pathways, and shelters accordingly.

Peaceful Sight and Sound of Water

Many find a water feature calming. The splash of a fountain, the running of a rill, the reflections of the sky. There are many ways to incorporate the sight and sound of water, and if done simply or borrowed from the landscape in an open view, a focused viewpoint, it tops the list of what people find enjoyable in such gardens.

Fountains as focal points can be integrated into the garden in a way that creates interest without overwhelming ones attention.


Campania International Anfora Fountain

A wide range of cost for materials and size makes this an investment to consider carefully. Consider the DIY kits or using repurposing ideas to create a water feature in your meditation or serenity garden.


garden foundation


In such a garden one would delight in some scent on the air, but not too strong a scent, and certainly not an unpleasant one.

While people differ in their sense of what smells pleasant, I think you could safely steer clear of  Cimifuga,  Cleome,  Privet, and some of the other strongly scented flowers and foliage.

Sweet Fragrance

There are some plants that have almost universal popularity, including lavender and roses. But in your own garden you will have to decide what aromatherapy works best on your heart and mind.
ferns and bracken

I personally love the smell of eglantine rose foliage: it is light on the breeze with an almost apple aroma. Peonies are fresh and sweet, and there are many things that mingle deliciously, yet lightly in the air.

Unexpectedly Enjoyable Aromas

Foliage can also be fragrant, and who can forget the flowers of an orchard? Apples, crabapples, cherries, all have sweet bloom in their time.

One unassuming little ground cover is Sweet Woodruff whose note of coumarin makes one think of a field in the summer and in the fall have a strawberry fragrance. Mix in some woodland fragarias (small delicate strawberries) for the real thing.

See, “The Most Fragrant Plants

Make It Your Own

Serene stones in simple stack.

I hope these ideas inspire you to make a little corner or a meditation theme garden of your own, a little place of peace in the garden.


Garden Art

Transition between the natural forms of fountains which can look like natural rock and garden sculpture are some forms of fountains that have characteristics of statues. A serenity garden might be simply a place to sit and reflect on nature, the plants and the trees, but many people enjoy a piece of art which serves as a focal point, either as something just to enjoy or some thing which they like to meditate upon.

Creating a Serenity Garden-links

A Moon Garden
HGTV’s making a Japanese Serenity Garden



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Ilona Erwin, author

Meet the Author

Ilona Erwin

I started working on this website beginning in 1998, when it was part of Ilona's Reflecting Pool. Since then I've branched out into a number of online endeavors and work at writing lots of content for my sites. "Ilona's Garden" remains my primary site and is dedicated to home gardener's success.