garden retreat



Leading designers from this summer’s Chelsea and Hampton Court Palace flower shows reveal how to create a sanctuary in your outdoor space…

With the pandemic making our green spaces such a key part of our wellbeing, many of us have looked to make the most of our gardens. But whether you have a small urban plot or a wide expanse, knowing how best to create a garden retreat that is peaceful and feels like a much-needed retreat can be a challenge.

Security and tranquility

Amanda Waring, of Catfoot Garden Design, has created a sanctuary garden for Armed Services charity SSAFA on display at RHS Chelsea this year.

Amanda explains what makes a sanctuary garden: “It’s a place in which you should feel safe, secure, calm and tranquil, with soft sounds and gentle movement, allowing you to drift away from the pressures and buzz of everyday life.

“Whether it’s a small or large area, sanctuary gardens can be created using different ways of landscaping, raised beds, sunken seating or by positioning a small garden room in a corner, to create enclosure and a space of wellbeing. Raised beds, wooden planters or just pots of differing sizes can quickly create an area around seating.

“Plants of different heights, smells and textures are all good in a sanctuary garden. The layering needs to be seasonal and the colours should be muted and tonal. The rustle of grasses or bobbing heads of flowers in the breeze can replace the relaxing sounds of water.” 

Immerse in nature

Tony Woods, of Garden Club London, who has created a sanctuary garden for Chelsea, says: “The sanctuary garden uses mindfulness to create subtle distractions from the stress of daily life. These include meandering stepping stones across a stream so that you have to think about your footing and immerse your thoughts in the nature that surrounds you. The sound of water trickling past distracts the mind, particularly from the sound of traffic or aircraft. Sweetly scented flowers including phlox and lilac fill the air with a heady aroma. Large pine and birch trees provide privacy and a sense of seclusion. 

IMAGES left to right: ZEN Garden, Sanctuary Garden, Designed by Ishihara Kazuyuki / The WFH – Lunch Break Garden-GetStartedGarden-designed by Jude Yeo, Imogen Perreau Callf and Emily Grayshaw / The SSAFA Garden supported by CCLA, Sanctuary Garden, designed by Amanda Waring / A Garden Sanctuary by Hamptons, Sanctuary Garden, designed by Tony Woods
Work from home retreat

Imogen Perreau, of Inspired Earth Design, has created the Work From Home Garden for RHS Hampton Court this year. She says: “Sanctuary gardens are all about creating mindful moments and a refuge from the outside world. Even in the smallest of gardens you can carve out a peaceful place to sit, reflect and unwind. For our Hampton Court garden, we have designed a space dedicated to taking a WFH lunch break – giving oneself permission to take a moment’s pause. We focus the mind on the sensory benefits nature provides, be it sight, sound, colour, texture or scent.

Sound: We’ve placed water at the centre as the focal point that draws you in. A simple seating area overlooks the water feature creating the ultimate tranquil setting. The sounds and gentle flow of cascading water encourages you to slow down. There is also the crunch of gravel underfoot, and the gentle rustling of grasses.

Colour: We have chosen a vibrant planting palette of pollinator friendly plants, peppered throughout with grasses. The repetition of warm tones provides a restful experience, where colours link together as you walk through the garden. Keeping our plants reduced to only eight varieties of herbaceous perennials enables the space to feel cohesive and less overwhelming.

Texture: By brushing past dense borders of plants and running your fingers through tall grasses, you create a way of instantly and physically connecting to the space.

Scent: We have used a wonderfully scented jasmine that climbs up the boundary fence wrapping itself around the seating area to give you this final reward.

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 24 – 28 May / RHS
Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival 4-9 July