Your garden might be your favourite place to sit and relax, but have you ever thought about the potential for gardens and outdoor living areas to transform the mind, body and soul? Founder and creative director ofLandart Landscapes and regular on the silver screen in shows such as Garden Gurus, Matt Leacy says gardens and nature can have valuable therapeutic and restorative benefits on people.
For Matt, anyone can find restorative benefits in outdoor spaces – from reflection and relaxation to tranquillity and healing. It’s all about bringing senses alive with different materials, deigns, colours, scents and sounds.
The wonder of water
In terms of creating positive energy in outdoor spaces, a great place to start is with the key principles of Feng Shui – wind and water. Water is proven to be a very calming element on humans, with multiple studies showing it can help lower blood pressure, improve physical health and accelerate healing. Consider a design centerpiece, such as a rock pool, fountain, cascading pond or even a waterfall.
In terms of outdoor water features, the biggest asset has to be a pool! Pools allow swimming and exercise and attract birds and native wildlife, which help to bring sound, energy and ambience to a space.
Flora for scent, taste and health
Plants and flowers can help to bring a sensory garden to life offering comfort, relaxation and stimuli. There are a number of flowers and plants that appeal strongly to the touch sense such as Lamb’s Ears, Banksias and Adenanthos.
The same goes for plants that naturally scent outdoor spaces such as sweet alyssum, honey-scented white flowers, gardenia, jasmine, frangipani, port wine magnolia and Daphnes. For health and healing, you can’t go past Eucalyptus. Eucalyptus can be grown in pots and used to scent patios, decks and other outdoor living areas. Another favourite is Aloe Vera plants, which can be planted in sunny garden aspects, as well as pots and hanging baskets.
Create a musical buzz
Auditory elements can be a great way to foster tranquility and ambience in an outdoor space. The most natural way to bring sound and music into a garden is through attracting wildlife – in particular, birds and bees. Banksias, grevilleas and bottlebrush are all good attractants while seed and fruit-feeding birds will feast on the likes of bottlebrush, She-oaks and palms. And if you really want to amp up the bird presence, consider introducing a bird bath or a nesting box as a bird feeder.
Positive by design
Landscape design also has a massive impact on the way an outdoor space feels. For example, always try to integrate fences in ways that don’t cut off landscapes and create hard barriers. You want your area to have multiple facets and dimensions, but you don’t want to close the space off completely and make it feel smaller.
To this end, consider boundary screening plants and slender weaving bamboo; use winding paths rather than direct tracks to inject positive energy into the space, and colours that blend with natural tones – natural stone or hardwood timber decking, for instance.