The lifestyle changes that people have experienced over the past year have greatly influenced how they want to live. Homeowners are rediscovering ways to commune with Nature to fully appreciate the restorative qualities of tranquility, the multisensory experience of Nature’s sights, sounds, fragrances, and textures.
Tranquility Is A Physiological Experience
There’s more to tranquility than sights, sounds, smells, and textures. More specifically, it is their nature that matters. For example, the soft rustling of cottonwood tree leaves has a calming effect. However, if the winds are unrelenting the droning sound could become quite unnerving and irritating.
Therefore, it’s important to think of how human the human body experiences tranquility. This will vary from person to person, and even for the same people at different times of the day or stages in their lives. Some of us have sensitive physiologies while others require more stimulation.
The surest way to get it right is with a landscape design process that considers what the property owners most want to see, feel, think and do as they experience it. Here are some tranquility elements that will likely contribute to the most favorable experience.
#1. Rhythmic Sound of Grasses
The use of ornamental grasses in modern landscapes is relatively new. In the last 30 years, the number of improved cultivars has exploded, giving landscape designers more control over variables such as height, texture, seed heads, and sustainability
A gentle breeze is enough to generate a rustling, rhythmic sound from Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster, better known as Feather Reed Grass. It’s one of the most durable ornamental grasses here in Minnesota, with a predictable vertical texture that makes it useful for separation and light privacy.
If fragrance is important to you, it’s hard to beat the nutty fragrance of Sporobolus heterolepis, Prairie Dropseed. This mounding grass attracts birds and offers a soft, pillowy appearance later in the season.
One of the greatest benefits of ornamental grasses is their year-round interest. While not evergreen, their texture creates magnificent scenes on dewy and frosty mornings. However, if it’s movement and the sound it creates, you should lean toward the more vertical grasses, such as Calamagrostis and native Little Bluestem.
#2. Calming Horizon Views
One of the most calming elements in any landscape is a horizon view. If you were lucky enough to live on a property that is unobstructed with sunrise or sunset views you certainly want to take full advantage of it. Framing those views with stately trees or arctic contextual elements such as arbors and pergolas gives it that emphasis it deserves.
You can also use focal points to bring the eye to it. In any landscape, the most pleasing views allow the eye to settle and relax. This is the benefit of horizon views. To further emphasize them linear forms such as rose of ornamental grasses, and evergreen hedge or virtually any mass of ornamental plantings can provide a frame beneath that view.
#3. Soaring Vertical Views
What we love most about outdoor living is its expansiveness. Take advantage of the vertical space in your landscape’s vertical space by introducing taller trees and structures that pull the eye upward. Frame that vertical view just as you would the horizon view to maximize it.
Imagine enjoying the movement of drifting clouds on a bright spring day or the peacefulness of a moonlit winter night as you stay warm next to your fire table.
If you happen to have a few large native trees in your landscape, consider extending that canopy. Introduce new trees of the same variety to carry the winter texture and fall color across that segment of your property.
#4. Flowing Waters
Water is a calming element when it is variable. This is most easily accomplished with a contained reflective water feature that changes with the ambient conditions, just like a pond or lake.
The sound of waterfalls and fountains can be tricky. Depending on your current mood or the gathering of people, the sound of splashing water can be a deterrent to tranquility. This problem is easily solved by having control of the water flow with variable speed pumps to turn it up or down.
#5. Expressive Art
Garden art makes your indoor and outdoor space personal. Since outdoor spaces are more organic and natural, consider choosing art that contrasts or emphasizes the typical forms. For example, a grouping of square columns could both emphasize and contrast with a stand of trees.
If you are going to use art you’ll want to illuminate it to enjoy it during the evening hours. This also serves as a security measure too. Uplighting from different angles usually works best, with backlighting providing a more dramatic effect.
#6. Guided Energy
If you are at all familiar with Feng Shui, a discipline practiced by many landscape designers, you understand the energy of a space is vitally important. Lots of energy from a splashing waterfall, for example, can be invigorating for some people and irritating for others.
One of the principles of Feng Shui is that energy needs to flow, but it also needs to collect. Think this in terms of people and how we move. We need to have the freedom to circulate without restrictions. But we also need to occasionally have a place to reset.
The center of a room or outdoor space should be open to allow energy to circulate. However, for that space to feel comfortable, it needs forms to protect that energy, to keep it from leaking out into the larger surrounding spaces. Thus, privacy borders help to contain the energy, and little pockets, rooms within the larger space, allow it to collect.
To put it simply, the ancient practice of Feng Shui is reflected in good design that makes spaces useful and comfortable. For many people today, that means tranquility too.
#7. Pleasing Textures
Never underestimate the tactile qualities of surfaces and what that can do to soothe the mind and body. There is something about tactile surfaces that heightens our awareness in a good way.
The crunchy sound and feel when walking over a crushed or pea gravel surface is pleasing! There are even podcasts dedicated to capturing these sounds that are sometimes described as “quiet noise.”
We Can Enhance Your Experience
More than a recent trend, tranquility gardens hold an important place in the garden tradition. Is your garden one of those special places?
Let our experienced team of professionals help you introduce these restorative qualities to your landscape gardens. Contact us for a casual, no-obligation analysis.