Creating Your Own Garden Oasis

Over the past year, we have rediscovered the importance of home and, with it, our gardens. With many of us replacing our vacations with staycations, it’s a good time to get a head start on this season’s garden. Through proper planning and planting, your garden escape may be only a few feet away.

Decide On A Space 

The first step to creating a garden oasis is to figure out where you want to create it.  You can create a comfortable space with just a few potted plants, or you can go all out and section off a small part of your backyard.  There are some big benefits to having plants around you.  Plants and being in nature have been linked to big improvements in mental health.  Being around plants can help you stress less, lower your blood pressure, and fight off depression and anxiety. 
This sounds like something that we could all benefit from. 
The space that you choose will determine your next steps.  Does your space get full sun or is it secluded and shaded?  Do you have enough space for a water feature or other large structures or are you fitting plants into a smaller space? 

Space-Saving Garden Oasis 

Are you working with a small space?  You can still create a lush, soothing oasis, even if your space is limited.  A small space can still have a big impact for your mental well-being. 
Sitting in nature has been studied extensively and found to create feelings of calm and a sense of security.  If you’re working with a limited space, try to plan your space around a comfortable chair.  Don’t try to fit a table into the space. 
Having just a chair will force you to sit and relax without trying to work or perform other tasks.  Face your chair towards the south if possible, to maximize the sunlight that will hit you and the plants around you. 
Once your chair is placed, start planning how you can maximize the plants in your space.  When you are looking at the space you have for plants, don’t forget about utilizing vertical space. Vertical planters, vining plants and stackable planters are excellent ways to get the most plants into a small space. 
When you are choosing plants for a small spot, choose plants that will offer visual stimulation and are interesting to you.  Add a few plants that will bloom and that are fragrant but don’t overdo it with the flowering plants.  You don’t want to create a pollen trap for your nose if your space is limited. 
Strong choices for plants that will grow up your wall (or down it) include English ivy, clematis, trumpet vines, nasturtium, black-eyed susans, morning glory, or climbing roses.  If your climbing plants start to overgrow your small space, simply prune the plants back.  Some perennials like clematis, trumpet vines, ivy and climbing roses are easy to start transplants in water.  Start cuttings in water and gift them to friends and family so that they can start their own backyard oasis also. 

Creating a Complete Backyard Getaway 

Can you spare a section of your backyard for a garden oasis?  Europeans perfected the idea of backyard gardens centuries ago.  Having a lush garden in your backyard can work wonders for your health.  A lush garden does require some upkeep that will help to get you outside and active.  It is also good for the environment and your mental well-being. 
When you are choosing a space for a backyard oasis, first locate the spot that is the most out of the way.  You don’t want to create an oasis right in front of the garage door where you will have a tough time getting things in and out of your garage.  The space for your oasis should also get plenty of sunshine.  If your space does not get a ton of direct sunlight, don’t fret. You can still make a beautiful green space. 
Consider if you want to add a water feature.  Many people find the sound of water soothing.  Water features are easy to set up and can usually be tackled in a weekend.  Dig out the space for your water and line with thick black plastic. 
Decide if you want a small, stationary pond or if you want to create a waterfall or other source of water movement.  If you want the water feature for the soothing sound of water, you will want to make sure that you are moving the water somehow to create the noise you are looking for.  Water features can also house fish, like koi, which can add another layer of fun into your backyard oasis. 
Next, think about the structures that you want to put into your space.  Again, sitting in nature has many benefits, so decide what type of seating you would like to have.  A table isn’t necessary, but you may want to have multiple options for seating.  A bench, a couple of chairs, a lounge chair, a swing, hammocks, and beach-style chairs are all fun options.  Incorporate more than one seating option so that you are comfortable in any mood in your oasis. 
Place your benches, chairs, or hammocks before you start to place your other structures.  Once your seats are set up, you can start thinking about other structures.  Do you want to put a bird bath or gazebo in your space?  These larger, heavier structures should be placed before you start to plant.  It is much easier to plan where plants should go around existing structures than it is to move plants to make space for large structures. 
To make your space feel more grown-in, add in some natural stone.  Use stones to create walls or pathways that wind through the space.  Avoid straight lines when creating walking paths or retaining walls.  Things in nature are rarely straight, therefore straight lines tend to make a space look artificial. 
Now that you have planned out all your artificial structures, it is finally time to talk about plants.  Different types of plants will give off different vibes.  A mixture of plants will create a lush and inviting space.  Don’t get to set on a specific color or type of plant.  Instead, get creative and add plants that you may not usually choose.   
Of course, do your research and make sure that the plants you choose are well suited to growing where you live.  If you live in Pennsylvania, then tropical plants may not be the best for your garden sanctuary. 
Are you dead set on the tropical vibe but live in a cooler climate?  Try putting these plants in containers and moving them indoors during the colder months. 

Some great plants to include to create a garden oasis are: 

Vining Plants.  Vining plants can be used to grow across arbors, gazebos, up trellises, across benches and down retaining walls.  There are many vining plants.  Some, like ivy, can create thick, green backdrops while others can add pops of color and interesting blooms. 
Climbing roses can be heavy and require a sturdy structure to grow up.  Clematis offers a wide range of unique blooms and the thin vines will grow almost anywhere.  Wisteria can be trained to grow and create living shade across arbors and gazebos.  Fast growing morning glories provide color quickly, but they’ll need to be reseeded each year. 
Broadleaf plants.  One of the most common themes in tropical spaces are plants with wide, flat leaves.  Choose plants with broad leaves to create that tropical feel.  There are some hardy perennials that have broad leaves that will grow in a wider range of climates. 
Cannas are a hardy bulb that have nice wide leaves and blooms at the top.  These dense plants are perfect around seating areas.  Plant more than you think you need to create a dense backdrop for your seating space. 
Flowering plants.  Include both flowering perennials and annuals in your garden.  Simply scatter annual seeds into your flowerbeds around perennials.  Gently rake the soil over to lightly cover the seeds.  This helps make the space look less manicured and more natural and inviting.  Zinnias are the perfect flower to scatter seeds for colorful blooms all season long. 
Textural aspects.  Include mounding plants like small evergreen shrubs, lavender, or geraniums.  These can be used to create contrast and borders between spaces.  Decorative grasses can also add contrast.  There are two types of ornamental grasses- clumping and spreading.
Spreading grasses, like bamboo, pampas grass or horsetail reeds, tend to be tall and will spread out.  Clumping grasses, like zebra grass or purple fountain grass, create small mounds. 
Be sure to include as many plants, colors, and textures as possible when creating your garden oasis.  Mixing it up will create texture and contrast, making the space feel more natural.   
This post was written by Shelby DeVore, the founder of Farminence.  Shelby is a passionate gardener with 20+ years of experience gardening and growing food at home.  She currently lives in West Tennessee on a 14-acre homestead with her husband, three children and too many animals to list. 
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