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Searching for Serenity in a Home Garden

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It’s called your castle for a reason, where you can unwind, relax, and take a breath. Sitting in your living room right now, is the TV groaning? Are the kids describing their best friend’s annoying habits? Is dinner an afterthought? Does your spouse look like they are working a Weather Channel hurricane report?

None of the moments above should describe the end of your day. The “Leave it to Beaver” crowd had the right idea. Decompress and put yourself and family first.

How do we achieve a retreat that defines our search for serenity? If you are looking out your window at dry grass and a lone, branchless tree, you’re in luck. A blank canvas is beckoning you to create. Plan for fall—the perfect time to build that spot to enjoy.

What do you need to create outdoor calm? First and foremost, in our area, you need relief from the sun. Shade may be provided by a tree or pergola. Deciduous trees provide shade three quarters of the year and warmth from the sun when the leaves fall.

Your calm, quiet area does not have to be huge. Think of it as a room in your back yard. Walls could be constructed out of fast-growing, evergreen shrubs like photinia. The calm room may be only 10 by 10, surrounded by shrubs and a spreading tree. The floor may be gravel, mulch, bricks, or concrete. Autumn is an optimal time to shovel gravel and plant.

What next? Simple things aid in the creation of calmness. Comfortable chaise lounges or a swinging bench create a place to sit and reflect. Magically, candles and hydrangeas appear. Fragrant flowers add to the ambiance. A rake can create “Japanese garden” patterns in the gravel. Control your mind and wayward gravel by using two-by-four wooden borders.

You might be saying that you are very good at looking at magazine pictures, but the picture in your mind is not as confident or clear. Where is the help to “unearth” serenity in your yard? Master Gardeners can help with ideas and plant knowledge. People who dig in the dirt know that happiness is tied to healthy living. Dirt diggers love to share their journeys and ideas. All you have to do is ask.

As you add rooms, options grow. Babbling stream beds, koi ponds, pools, spas, waterfalls ease the mind and body. Backyard fireplaces add a whole season to enjoy. Buy the biggest and best plants you can afford (don’t wait five years for shade). Get help with planting; don’t make the process painful.

Don’t look at apps for calm or entertainment dosed out in minute dopamine bursts. Build your serenity space and invite your family and your mind to a calming place. Searching for serenity will grow like this year’s Grandpa Ott’s morning glory (if you have one, you know).

Julie Silva is a University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener of Tuolumne County.