Letting loose with friends in your outdoor room or around the fire pit is part of the joy of gardening. Although what about creating a personal retreat where you can relax anytime you need time to yourself? We think having that peaceful and beautiful garden retreat is just as important as making space for socializing. And we've found that most gardeners agree. We hear over and over that a big part of why people love spending time in the garden is this. It offers them a place to de-stress and unwind. Their garden plays a major role in maintaining their mental health and well-being. (Not to mention the physical health it encourages, too).
We want to make it easy for you to create the perfect place for rest and relaxation in your garden. Therefore, we're offering 6 garden design ideas with landscape photos and plant lists. This will help you create a tranquil oasis in your own backyard.
1. Add Tranquility with a Simple Water Feature (pictured above)
Perhaps one of the quickest ways to add tranquility to a garden is to add a water fountain or feature. It's amazing what the sound of water can do! The soft burble of gently flowing or bubbling water feature adds an instant feeling of serenity to a garden space. In the photo above, a simple, rectangular water fountain was added to a small outdoor room. This elevates the space to a peaceful oasis. Structured boxwoods are softened with lavender, lantana, and low-growing grasses to complete the look.
Water features like this one can also mask background noise. This makes a space feel secluded and quiet even when its surroundings are anything but.
Get the Look with These Plants
A highly fragrant evergreen shrub with gray-green foliage and abundant purple flower spikes. A wonderful addition to dry, sunny borders and gardens. Useful as a hedge or edging in herb gardens. Highly effective in mass plantings. Flowers may be dried and crushed to use in sachets. Full sun. 2' tall and wide. Zones 5-9.
An excellent evergreen shrub for small hedges. Retains its dark green foliage in the hottest summers, becoming bronze-tinged in cold weather. Well-suited to pruning into formal shapes. More heat, humidity, and drought tolerant than other boxwood varieties. Partial to full sun. Up to 6' tall and wide in natural form. Zones 5-9.
A profusion of both pure white and solid purple flowers cover this widely spreading groundcover nearly year-round! Its naturally spreading form is excellent for bank cover and erosion control. Wonderful cascading over raised beds and hanging baskets, or as a container specimen, trained into a patio tree form. Evergreen in frost-free climates. Up to 12" tall, spreading to 6' wide. Zone 9-11.
2. Combine Elements for a Truly Tranquil Outdoor Room
This Scott Shrader-designed outdoor room provides a calm outdoor retreat that feels like it's part of the house. Here, he combined two elements. The bubbling of an inset water feature and the warmth of a circular stone firepit. This is to welcome you to this serene oasis and put you at ease immediately. Camellia bushes form the lush outline of this room, while shaped boxwoods add formal structure. Redbud trees form a canopy of pink flowers in spring, and cool, enveloping shade in the summer.
Love this look? It was designed by one of our favorite designers, Scott Shrader. Learn more about this property and read a full interview with Scott here.
Photo by Lisa Romerein/OTTO.
Get the Look with These Plants
Beautiful landscape tree valued for its brilliant scarlet-purple color to new foliage, maturing to maroon. Rosy-pink flowers on bare branches bridge the gap between winter and spring! Full sun. Up to 20' tall, 25' wide. Zones 5-9.
Sparkling white, semi-double blooms cover glossy dark green foliage during the cool season. Upright, somewhat willowy branches form a handsome rounded shrub with age. Excellent for use as an accent, evergreen hedge, or espalier. A mid-season bloomer. Filtered sun. Up to 9' tall and wide. Zones 7-10.
An excellent evergreen shrub for small hedges. Among the hardiest of the small-leaved boxwoods, is the rich green foliage. This can acquire a golden bronze hue in cold winter zones. However, it is one of the first to become green again in spring. Makes a wonderful addition to formal gardens, providing year-round interest.
Up to 6' tall and wide. Partial to full sun. Zones 5-9.
3. Create a Spa-Like Poolside Retreat
Design by Dan Gordon Landscape Architects, Photo by Patrick Taylor
Here's an idea that takes the "just add water" approach to another level. Not every garden (or gardener) can manage the addition of a pool. However, there's no denying that there's nothing like a pool or hot tub. It will take your space from a beautiful scene to a luxurious spa-like experience. Whether it's a large pool like we have here or a small hot tub like you see in the photo below. It's hard to top the soothing effect that a body of water can have.
Remember, a pool without beautiful landscaping will fail to live up to its potential. The pool above offers a peaceful place to relax and unwind. With feathery soft astilbe and boxwoods lining the edge. Plus a stone urn filled with cascading English ivy to complete the timeless and elegant vision.
Want more pool landscaping ideas? We have a whole design story with more ideas and inspiration here.
Get the Look with These Plants
Showy perennial for beautiful summer color in shady areas. Fragrant and feathery, densely packed spires of pale pink rise above the foliage. Adds a light, airy quality to a border or in mass plantings. Full shade to partial sun. Up to 20" tall, 18" wide. Zones 4-8.
A vigorous evergreen shrub with bright green foliage that retains good color throughout winter. The upright, naturally cone-shaped habit makes it an excellent candidate for topiary forms. And, a striking container or formal garden accent. Use in mass plantings to create either a free-form or a sculpted hedge. Partial to full sun. Up to 5' tall, 3' wide. Zones 4-9.
An excellent evergreen shrub for tall hedges and privacy screens. The long, upright-growing branches with dense, glossy, dark green foliage naturally form a narrow, columnar habit. This works well as a foundation plant, or placed in pairs at entries or doorways. Partial to full sun. Up to 12' tall, 4' wide. Zones 4-7.
4. Use a Simple Color Palette for Soothing Results
Here's the perfect example of a small, tranquil garden that makes the most of its limited space. It does so by including both lush, abundant landscaping and a hot tub.
Understated, natural materials like wood and stone are softened by a simple palette of verdant plants. This makes the transition from water to garden seamless, just like it would be in nature.
An elegant color palette of green and white further works to calm the mind and soothe the soul.
Billowing hydrangeas and Japanese forest grass envelope the area in softness. While birch trees offer soft, dappled shade and lovely vertical accents.
Get the Look with These Plants
All Gold Japanese
A graceful, colorful groundcover for shady areas. Slender stems hold bright golden-yellow foliage having the effect of a tiny bamboo. Great in containers or color accent in borders. Partial shade to partial sun. Up to 18" tall and wide. Zones 4-9.
A beautiful, multi-branched tree prized for its highly textural, colorful, peeling bark. An exceptional silhouette for night lighting. Provides striking winter interest. This versatile, highly heat-tolerant tree thrives in riparian settings with high water tables and problematic low, wet soils. Yet adapts to mild drought when established. Up to 60' tall and wide. Full sun. Zones 3-7.
Seaside Serenade® Bar
This new, compact form of the famed Annabelle hydrangea is perfect for smaller spaces. Masses of big, white flower heads put on a spectacular show throughout summer. The straight sturdy stems hold up even in heavy rain. Ideal for borders or in containers. Superb cut flowers. Partial to full sun. Zones 3-8.
5. Create a Comfy Nook Surrounded by Nature
Sitting in nature is a quiet, simple act, yet often profound. The goal of a tranquil garden ultimately boils down to a comfortable place. One that's surrounded by beautiful plants, singing birds, floating butterflies, and buzzing bees. Plus whatever else you might find in your backyard habitat.
This is a place where you can sit back and do whatever your heart desires. Maybe take a nap, read a book, meditate, or observe your surroundings. (Even better? All of these things in one long garden visit).
Here, designer Christian Douglas accomplishes the lofty yet simple task of creating a place to do just that. The stream encourages the playful exploration of the two young boys who live here. However, adults and children alike can find a place to relax next to the gentle music of the babbling brook.
This comfy hammock is tucked into a landscape full of lush ferns, Japanese maples, magnolias, and even strawberries. See the rest of this property as well as an in-depth interview with Christian Douglas here.
Get the Look with These Plants
A beautiful tree with brilliant red-coral bark on young branches and deeply cut, pale-green leaves with red margins. Thrives in dappled shade in warmer regions, or full sun in cooler zones. Filtered to full sun. Up to 25' tall and 20' wide. Zones 5-8.
Strawberries make a great, low-growing edible groundcover. This is a highly productive variety with large, delicious berries. Disease resistant and adaptable to a wide range of climates. Will remain evergreen in frost-free areas. Full sun. Up to 12" tall, 24" wide. Zones 4-9.
Upright fronds that range in color from dark to light green form a striking vertical clump. This makes a bold and textural statement in the shaded garden. Partial to full shade. Up to 36" tall and wide. Zones 5-8.
6. Add a Waterfall to Bring Your Oasis to the Next Level
The experience of sitting beside a gentle waterfall can be altogether magical; why not recreate the experience at home? Here is a beautiful example of how you can do just that with a large water feature in your garden.
This beautifully landscaped water feature combines several of the design ideas above. This is done by offering the soothing sound of moving water and the luxurious experience of being near water. As well as the peaceful feeling of being surrounded by nature. It accomplishes all of this by re-creating one of the most serene settings that we can find in the wild. A gently flowing stream with a softly cascading waterfall.
The stream also creates a unique microclimate that's perfect for growing a variety of plants. Ones that you may not otherwise be able to grow in other parts of the garden.
Water-loving plants like ligularia (perfect for a water garden like this one) line the stream banks. While Japanese maples, catmint, grasses, and daylilies enjoy the slightly higher ground.
Stella De Oro
The sensational, award-winning selection blooms with heavy clusters of 2-1/2 in. yellow blooms. Reblooms freely into early fall. This easy-to-care-for plant forms neat, compact clumps. Partial to full sun. Foliage reaches up to 1' tall, and flowers reach 2' tall. Zone 4-11.
This improved selection makes an extremely attractive garden or patio tree. It displays beautifully cascading branches with large, finely cut green leaves and golden fall color. A choice of small tree for garden accents and containers in full to part sun. In cool climates, dappled or afternoon shade in extremely hot areas. Partial to full sun. Up to 10' tall, 12' wide. Zones 5-8.
A superb compact selection with finely textured, aromatic, gray-green foliage and soft, lavender flower spikes on a low, spreading habit. A sterile dwarf form of Walker's Low Catmint. Excellent for cascading off walls or container edges and as groundcover that tolerates periodic drought, when well-established. Zones 5-9.
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Free Digital Design Guides:
- Backyard Habitat Guide
- Landscape Style Guide Lookbook
- Simply Beautiful Design Guide
- Plant Palette Color Guide
- Drought-Tolerant Gardening Guide