In my last article I explored the world of plant symbolism and particularly those species we associate with peace – the olive tree, the apple tree, lavender, violets and white poppies. At the end of that article I promised you a sketch of a patio peace garden. Here it is…
I know sounds silly to believe that one can actually beget amity by installing a garden with plants that someone from the Victorian era deemed denotative of peace. But I think that peaceful intention and effort are powerful. Doesn’t the process of choosing plants that symbolize peace, watching the magic of their growing cycle and delighting in their blossoms and fruit make us all happier people? And if we are happier people aren’t we more likely to be cooperative, compassionate, fair and forgiving? Well that is my argument.
I looked into the psychological impact of gardening and research actually does back up my viewpoint. Scientific studies show that gardening and especially vegetable gardening reduces stress and increases our sense of well-being. Growing plants and playing in the dirt increases serotonin and dopamine levels and reduces cortisol. Sarah Rayne, in her May 2015 Psychology Today article Petal Power: Why is Gardening So Good for Our Mental Health tells us that gardening allows us to nurture, gives us a sense of responsibility, helps us to relax and work through problems, and provides a conduit to vent anger safely. Gardening reduces anxiety. KQED’s Kristofor Husted explored the positive impact of gardening February 2012 in The Salt titled Can Gardening Help Troubled Minds. The segment looked at how horticultural therapy improved health and self-image and also reduced recidivism in prison yards, troubled youth programs, retirement homes and veteran’s homes.
The studies and observations I researched support the positive impact of gardening – although they don’t specifically focus on peace plants. No one has studied that yet. As it turns out all the peace plants in my design are edible anyway. Olives, apples, lavenders, violets and California native (Eschscholzia) poppies are either yummy to munch, have medicinal components, or add a bit of spice to a garden salad. Isn’t that terrific?
The peaceful plant palette:
- Olive (Olea europaea). Drought tolerant tree. Grey green foliage. Evergreen. Fast growing. Full sun.
- Apple (Malus pumula). Loves water but can be pretty tough once stabled. Bright green foliage. Deciduous. Moderate grower. Full sun. Beautiful pink blossoms that fade to white.
- Lavender (Lavendula sp.) There are many species, cultivars and sizes. Evergreen. Woody sub-shrub. Grey green to medium green foliage. Full sun. Flowers may be deep purple, lavender, pink or white. Aromatic! Water-wise.
- Violets (Viola odorata). Violets are shade to part-sun loving annuals that reseed vigorously. Purple-blue blossoms. Great scent. About 6” tall by 12” wide. Prefer moderate water.
- White Poppies (Eschscholzia californica “Alba” or “White Linen” Annuals that love the sun and reseed vigorously. Low to moderate water. Blossoms vary from creamy white to pure white.
My peaceful garden sketch is based on the real-time square footage of a condo patio here in Sonoma, CA. I wish you well growing your peace garden.