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Create a garden sanctuary

Spring has arrived, and as we look around all we see is the work that it entails. The snow banks have melted to reveal yards littered with snow mold, dirt and blown-in debris. The lawn must be raked and mowed. Shrubs and trees need pruning and the dead foliage and stems must be cleaned from the garden beds. By May 1, the cover should be off the roses and winter mulches off other garden areas. You may ask yourself 'why should I bother with any more than the bare minimum of mowing the lawn.'

Life is chaotic! Most people have a job that is often stressful. We drive to work and home again in traffic that gets heavier each year. We do our shopping in crowded stores and wait in long checkout lines. We arrive home, driving right into the garage and sit down to watch the bad news on TV. It can be overwhelming, but don't get out the Prozac. Make yourself a place of refuge, a garden sanctuary.

This is where the concept of garden rooms can come into play. The front yard may be your public face or 'parlor,' and perhaps be a little formal with a manicured lawn and well trimmed shrubs. The backyard can be an expression of your personal 'self.' You may divide your back and side yards into as many areas (rooms) as you wish. Most of us would include a kitchen area, with the grill, a dining area, a living 'room' with chairs for visiting friends, a children's (or adult) play area and a utility area. Some people would like an area for growing herbs and vegetables. But, a 'room' just for relaxing and contemplation could be the most important area, as we need a place to find peace and tranquility.

Rooms have floors, walls, ceilings, doors, windows and furniture. Your garden rooms, especially your sanctuary, should have some or all of these features. Tree canopies or pergolas form ceilings. You may have to trim the trees up to let in more light and get more space underneath them. The exterior walls of your house, garage, fences and hedges form walls. Every garden has a floor that may be just grass, but could be other living ground covers, brick, wood decking, cement paving, gravel or bark mulch. Gates and arbors form doors and add to privacy. Windows of the house make it possible to enjoy the garden from indoors. Paths are like hallways and guide you from one room to the next.

Rooms need decorations. The sanctuary room is a place to express yourself and not care what the neighbors think. You may wish to make it a shrine that is peaceful and contemplative, but if you want a place to display your garden gnomes or pink flamingos that is your choice. You may create a place that is whimsical, formal or untamed.

A water feature is a good centerpiece for the sanctuary. The sound of a splashing waterfall or a bubbling fountain masks the noise of the streets. A smooth reflecting pond has a calming effect. Even a birdbath with a feeder or two nearby, can be a soothing addition to the area.

The green of grass, groundcovers, shrubs and perennials is very relaxing. Use a combination of different foliage colors, textures, shapes and structure. Try to use plants that are tall or climbing against your garden walls to make the area feel more private and enclosed. Flowers are nice, but they are not necessary. You can always add pots of color that can be changed with the season and moved around.

It is important to have a place to sit and relax, so place a bench or chair where you have the best view. Garden statuary is a great addition and large rocks or boulders are like furniture. Garden lights enhance the area in the evening.

This may sound like a lot of work right now. However, just the act of digging in the dirt and planting things can make you forget the worries of the world. Gardening is a very therapeutic hobby.Breitling is a longtime West Fargo resident and avid gardener always in search of new ideas.