Thursday, July 22, 2010

Serenity Now

I'm a Board member at Freedom House, the women and children's domestic and sexual abuse shelter and advocacy center. It serves five counties: Henry, Bureau, Marshall, Stark, & Putnam.

The calming effect of gardens, both decorative and vegetable, can help those who have suffered from violence, both physical and emotional. The sounds, the labor, the colors, and even the arrangement can add to the soothing effect.

Sometimes we don't take the time to soak up the benefit to our emotional well being a garden can bring. Not only those who suffer the effects of abuse but for the many who suffer from noises, stress, and pressures of everyday life.

Water features have become extremely popular again. Always a fixture in gardens even back BC, water features come and go in style and popularity. Today, there is something for most every garden: A small table top device for the office, a wall-hung unit for an apartment balcony, a bird bath, a fish pond, a water fall, or a lake are all options depending on space, funds, and how much work you want to do to maintain.

The sound of a water feature can mask out irritating noises of the city, apartment & suburbia neighbors. For some, the sound of moving water is soothing. For me, I find it similar to fingernails on a chalk board but I'm probably the exception.

Another benefit of a water feature in a garden setting - it typically attracts birds.

The colors of a garden may determine the calming level. Hot colors tend to excite - cool colors tend to calm. If your landscape is big enough, having pockets of both may fit your changing moods.

Here are some suggestions for a "serenity space":

  • Soften the background with tall trees & bushes in green. A mix of shade and sun is optimal.
  • Provide a place for insect free shade.
  • Pastel flowers on bushes and perennials typically take less care.
  • A water feature that will add serenity and not add to your work load.
  • If you enjoy gardening, a bed of flowering annuals and perennials.
  • Make sure you have flowers & herbs that have a scent mixed into your garden. Consider Oriental Lilies for years of carefree enjoyment. Lemon Balm, Basil, Oregano all have heavy scents. Place those plants close to where you will sit/walk.
  • Provide comfortable seating.

This may sound like a lot but it doesn't need to be huge or lavish. Here are some ideas for simple or small:

  • If trees and bushes aren't an option, consider a screen made from lattice, metal or blinds.
  • If you have no grass, consider a rug made from anything that won't rot: bamboo, plastics, wood, or painted.
  • Curtains made from material. Heavy for rain and sun protection - net for insect or semi protection. Something as simple as stitching together material from bright used clothes and hung on a piece of clothesline will suffice.
  • Lights: Candles, twinkle lights, oil lamps, solar powered - the list is expansive.
  • Pots of flowers: Situated around the seating area. Although they must be protected from freezing in the winter, small trees and shrubs can block views and noise.
  • Take all your old bed pillows away and get fresh new ones. THEN, cover the old ones in pretty covers to fit your mood and have available for lounging. Throw in a large trash bag and return to the closet or garage until the next time. (Rain & insects do ugly on these.)
  • Do not listen or watch the television, computer or radio in the serenity area. If you must have externally produced sound, consider soothing music but remember your music may not sooth others and that should be a consideration.

Serenity now? It's possible!

Freedom House hot line: 800-474-6031 or call 911 for emergency situations. The local police work with FH and abuse victims.

To learn more about Freedom House or to contribute:

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