Whatever form your entryway takes, it's a reminder to leave your concerns at the door. Don't we all need those occasional reminders?
Both are permeable, inexpensive and, most important, feel great under your feet. Mulch pathways cushion the feet and bring to mind the seemingly audible silence of a wilderness retreat. Gravel crunches underfoot, making the most delightful sound.
Using many plants of the same species creates unparalleled visual impact. A friend of mine told me that she would go to the nursery, spend $1,000 on one of this and one of that and never notice them again because they became visually engulfed by her large space. Together we planted 80 autumn ferns in a serpentine line around the back of her koi pond. She was astounded by the visual impact when she first stood back and saw the result.
The reason the concept of mass plantings works so well is that the eye flows uninterrupted, seeing the entire space as one element. The result is most assuredly a calm sense of relaxation.
You can introduce the concept of rhythm in your garden by repeating certain key elements, as was done with these sculptural ceramic orbs. By spacing them farther apart, you can slow down your rhythm, creating a more leisurely garden experience. Closer spacing may actually decrease your sense of relaxation by making the space feel busier and more congested. Since these orbs alternate from side to side along this path, the eye is drawn down to a hidden part of the garden. Why? Because rhythm is established, and this rhythm resonates with your internal rhythm. If you've ever thought to yourself, "This garden speaks to me," rhythm is probably the reason.
Tip: When doing a rhythmic installation such as this, odd numbers of items are always more pleasing to the eye.
Another benefit of using curved bed lines is that they make it easier to transition from one type of planting to another. This way your plants won't end up looking like cans on a grocery store shelf.
The specific type of water feature you choose to incorporate into your personal space will vary according to your affinities, space and budget. You may choose a naturalistic type of pond like the one shown here, or even a trickle of water flowing through a piece of bamboo in a Japanese garden.
Tip: Consider having your water feature professionally designed, and buy the best equipment you can afford. There is nothing relaxing and nurturing about broken pumps, algae blooms and water leaks.
Limit your colors but explore shapes and textures. Bright warm oranges and gaudy pinks may be overpowering in a relaxation garden. If you study the garden shown here, you will find that the color palette is extremely limited. The majority of plants used in this garden are either bluish gray or tan. Green is used to subtly weave continuity into this space and to give the eye a place to rest. Likewise, most of the plants are mounding with a few accents of spikes. This mounding form is reinforced by boulders.
What gives this garden a punch of interest is really the enormous variation in texture, from the rock steps and boulders to the various leaf textures. Limiting the color palette and shapes creates a sensory foundation of comfort so that the viewer is encouraged to explore the wonderful variety of textures.
Moss can now be purchased by the square foot. Carefully research which type is best for your specific conditions. Some varieties can take more sun than others; some prefer sandy soil, while others prefer clay. Moss doesn't need perfect soil, but it does need daily watering until it is well established. The payoff is worth the extra effort on the front end.
Weeping and pendulous trees imitate this form. Notice the wonderful pendulous Alaskan Cedar trees (chamaecyparis nootkatensis, zones 4 to 8) in the photo. Don't they lend a sense of calm to this garden space?