How a garden restores our Wellbeing
There is a reason why we are naturally drawn to the outdoors.
It’s based on our intuitive and deep connection with nature – a relationship that’s just as nurturing and restorative today, as it was when life began.
But how does a garden strengthen our mind, body and spirit?
Nature restores and heals.
Put simply, a garden makes us feel good. It’s a place where we can breathe freely and clear the head: a sanctuary that is peaceful.
As a human race, we instinctively yearn to connect with the outdoors. It offers a harmonious space to relax, unwind, reflect and refresh ourselves. Something as simple as a sculptural Banksia flower or scented gum can transform our state of mind in an instant. By comparison, man-made elements such as concrete, steel and other hard surfaces do little to evoke such ease.
“We feel a natural affinity with plant life and the raw elements that we find outdoors,” says Pepo Director, Nicola Cameron. “There is a familiarity that we can sync with effortlessly and find ourselves naturally drawn towards.”
An increasingly popular inclusion are fire pits. Nicola continues, “There is something about the crackling and the intermittent flickering of the flames. At Pepo we believe that fire is another good example of a natural element that is not only settling for the soul, but magnetising as well.” For more information about inspirational outdoor fire pits like the one pictured below, visit Made by Tait.
A professionally designed garden has the added advantage of an expert eye to maximise the visual balance. A landscape designer can select each of the elements to make the most of different aspects and evoke restorative harmony. The resulting balance and flow helps the mind to naturally relax and effortlessly bask in the array of beauty, forms and colours.
Gardens boost our immunity and mental wellness
Studies have shown that activating our senses by means of congenial sounds, sights and smells, helps to alleviate stress and keep us grounded.
Known by ancient philosophers as the ‘windows of the soul’, our senses when stimulated, automatically keep us in the present moment and awaken a natural state of mindfulness, similar to meditation. Our blood pressure begins to fall and our tight muscles start to relax. We begin to lay the foundations for a positive mental outlook and greater wellness.
Whether it’s the warmth of the sun or being surrounded by a beautiful green landscape, nature can speed up the healing process. That’s why many doctors continue to prescribe gardening and other outdoor activities to help patients overcome low energy, negativity and depression. Equally, gardens help to boost immunity against disease and ill health and serve as an important preventive measure as well. Be inspired by the scents and stimulation of the Bronte House garden, developed by Pepo, (pictured below).
Gardening is a physical activity
Labouring in the garden not only allows us to physically connect with the earth, it also gives us a great workout. Whether it’s digging, mowing or clipping, the exercise is invaluable for our long-term health. Our Pepo maintenance team members are living proof that it works!
Studies show that even short bursts of activity can increase our alertness, energy and mood. Such movement builds strong muscles and bones and improves blood pressure. It also helps to manage the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease and is arguably much more enjoyable than going to the gym, some might say!
Gardening gives us a purpose
Ask any gardener what they love about a good day’s work and they are likely to mention the word “satisfaction”.
Most of us get a sense of achievement as a result of our dedicated efforts. We enjoy the sense of mental contentment, when we admire the final outcome.
“Instinctively, we are nurturing beings,” says Landscape Architect, Nicola Cameron. “We want to care for something and take responsibility for its welfare in a meaningful way. Most people I know will do everything they can to keep their plants alive during a drought for example. They feel a responsibly to care for the garden that surrounds them and this gives them a strong purpose.”
Similarly, anticipating the annual flowering cycles of certain plants like Salvia and Bougainvillea help to layer an individual’s life with meaning and connect them to the seasons. Such ties are also enhanced by nurturing a cutting that has been passed down through the generations, as it continues to flourish and evoke memories in years to come.
Communities connect in gardens
The personal benefits of social relationships and a meaningful connection with others, have long been recognised. Nature provides the ideal opportunity for people to come together, whether it is walking in the park or collectively planting a patch of herbs.
“Pepo was proud to be involved in designing and creating a communal garden on the rooftop of St Canice’s Church in Kings Cross,” said Nicola Cameron. “The sunny little space was a source of abundant fresh vegetables and provided respite for the local asylum seeker community. It involved people of all ages and gave every person the chance to share, not just their pickings, but also their hopes and their stories.”
Not only does a shared pursuit create camaraderie, it encourages children to learn about the benefits of good nutrition. “It’s generally children who pester their parents to plant a veggie patch,” laughs Nicola. We find that kids are more likely to eat a healthy diet after planting, tending and picking the likes of carrots, spinach and broccoli, from their own garden.”
Essential garden inclusions to enhance wellbeing
A landscape architect understands the values of those they are designing for and how to evoke happiness, based on these individual needs.
One person may draw strength and inspiration from a scented herb garden, while another’s spirit is restored by gazing upon a shallow pool, rippling with lilies. Whatever each of our needs may be, well-considered balance will always remain at the heart of good design when it comes to wellbeing.
“Smells are very powerful and the scent of a Rosemary bush for example, mixed with thyme wafting on the breeze, has a soothing quality,” says Nicola Cameron. “Another consideration is running water which brings birds and nature to a garden and cuts out noise. And it’s hard to beat a well-placed tree that stands tall while its canopy offers protection and shade, providing a sense of cosiness and safety.”
Wellbeing in the future
While cities continue to heave under the weight of hard surfaces, a quiet but powerful revolution is underway to integrate more greenery into our public spaces.
An agenda to green Australia’s cities has been recognised by the Federal Government and there is a growing commitment to manage the impact of climate change, increase environmental performance and improve urban wellbeing.
“As a society, we need to avoid becoming “Plant Blind” through failing to appreciate the flora around us,” says Nicola.
“By increasing our commitment to plant conservation and biology, we will establish a healthier balance which will connect us more readily to the earth. The resulting sense of wellbeing will benefit us all.”