Making the garden your happy place

In trying times, we need our own sanctuary. Don’t we? It could be real or a place we magic up in our mind. A place of refuge from anxiety or fear; or a place that simply brings us pleasure, in the moment or in our memory.

For inspiration, here’s a happy place I’ve been wanting to share since my visit waaaaaaaaaaay back in 2011, the temple folly in the garden of Denise Lane in Medina, Washington. Have a look, and I’ll tell you more as we go.

Our first view of the folly, like a ruined temple in the forest

In architectural terms, a structure like this is called a folly, designed to look old and merely decorative. And, they say, it has no practical purpose. But I’m here to suggest that the Royal They are wrong. Lane’s folly has a purpose. It makes her happy, and it seeing it makes us happy, too.

Is happiness practical? Wondering about that sent me to Google which, after a few tries, turned up, “What is the evolutionary purpose of happiness?” and pointed me to this article on Quartz. It posits that happiness was one key to our earliest ancestors’ survival. How does survival sound? Practical? I thought so, too.

Lane’s structure is concrete, the tall Doric columns moulded in Sonotubes.

Of course if you take time to read the Quartz article you’ll learn other things. It’s happy surprises, not just everyday happiness, that pump up the happiness-inducing dopamine. And, unfortunately, all the things on the flip side of happiness (like anxiety and fear) were useful for survival, too.

But let’s ignore that second point for now. We get enough of that daily. Let’s instead talk about how even a static garden structure like this can produce many garden surprises.

The pool at the centre is fed by a fountain trickling down the rough surface of a concrete leaf.

What is a garden but a source of ever-changing surprises? When things go our way, most are happy ones. Plants bloom. Leaves change colour as seasons do. Think of the water in Lane’s pool and fountain. Goldfish flit in and out of shadows. And you never know which birds or wildlife will drop by for a drink.

Of course, in Toronto, it might be raccoons who drop by… to snack on the goldfish. But let’s not think about that for now. (You see how my mind works.)

Planters on top trail with the annual vine known as purple bells (Rhodochiton atrosangineus).

I’ve just learned that purple bells (Rhrodochiton atrosanguineus), the fascinating trailer above, can be grown from seed, and that Canadian seed company William Dam carries it. That makes me happy! It would be very showy in any high position in the garden. Take a closer look below.

In Buffalo this summer, I saw purple bells clambering over this obelisk. Definitely eye catching.

Click any image to embiggen the slideshow – any fuzzy images will also be clearer. Notice how a few of the broken columns have been used as planters?

Making our garden our happy place – or our safe space – starts with knowing what makes us happy and translating that into a happy home for plants. I’m pretty sure that a garden that doesn’t make us do too many of the things we don’t like doing is a good beginning. What do you think?


    1. So true, Janet. But it’s amazing how often people lose sight of this when they’re overwhelmed with the musts and how-tos.

    1. It was a beautiful garden, wasn’t it, Diana? I’ve posted about bits of it over the years, but strangely not till now about this major feature. And there’s even more to say about other parts. It’s wonderful how garden visits can be bottomless wells of inspiration.

  1. Wow! I’m definitely adding to my chartreuse and purple combos after looking at your photos. And I will show the sono tube idea to the guys at the Home Building Centre. Maybe they can built a happy place onsite!

    1. Purple (aka “Ultra Violet”) is Pantone’s 2018 colour of the year, so I’m sure we’ll be seeing lots of it over the next few months. Perhaps even on this blog!

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