By Melinda Myers
Create an outdoor space to relax and recharge. Transform a corner of your landscape, deck or balcony into your own escape from everyday deadlines and stress.
Use decorative fencing, sheer curtains or plantings to define the space and create a bit of privacy. An outdoor carpet, steppers or groundcover can also help define the space and create added comfort.
Provide a bit of protection from the blazing hot sun with a shade tree, pergola, umbrella or retractable awning. Deciduous trees and vines add shade during hot summer months, but let the warm sunlight shine through during the cooler months of the year.
Reduce maintenance by growing plants suited to your climate and growing conditions. Use fewer varieties and more of each to provide unity while reducing maintenance. Include permanent plantings of low maintenance trees, shrubs and perennials. Further reduce maintenance by selecting All-America Selections (AAS) winning plants (all-americaselections.org) that have been trialed across the US and Canada and selected for their performance in home gardens and containers.
Select varieties known for being low maintenance. Interspecific Supra Pink and Jolt dianthus are both such plants. Their showy flowers brighten the garden all summer long despite the heat and with no deadheading.
Add some therapeutic fragrance to your space by growing a pot or patch of Lavender lady, an English lavender. Brush your hand over the foliage and flowers to enjoy its relaxing fragrance. This compact variety flowers just 90 days from sowing and is hardy in zones 5 to 9.
Perfume the air with blue Evening Scentsation petunia. Perfect for containers and hanging baskets, its fragrance peaks during the evening hours. Set a container of compact Deep Purple nicotiana near your chair or entryway for a fragrant greeting in the evening.
Get a boost of color and health benefits by inviting birds and butterflies into your sanctuary. Being in nature lowers your blood pressure and improves your mood and adding bird watching to the mix increases these benefits.
Plant Tip Top Rose nasturtium to bring in the hummingbirds and butterflies. This compact plant boasts showy rose-colored flowers that bloom all season long. Pluck a few of the edible leaves and flowers to enjoy in your salad.
Summer Jewel Salvias include red, white, lavender and pink flowered wind and rain tolerant beauties. You’ll enjoy the butterflies and hummingbirds visiting the flowers and goldfinches feasting on the seeds.
Extend your enjoyment into the evening with some night lighting. Drape a string of lights over a pergola, arbor or tree. Lead the way to your retreat with some solar powered path lighting. Within the space, light a few candles or lanterns for more intimate lighting.
Brighten the night garden with a few flowers that shine during the darker hours. Gypsy White baby’s breath is a non-invasive species and has better branching and heat tolerance, making it an attractive low maintenance option.
Mega Bloom Polka Dot vinca’s bright white flowers are a standout in the garden. Its pure white petals with bright pink center provide a nighttime glow as well as daytime interest.
Be sure to include a comfortable chair, hammock or glider to relax into the space. Add the soothing sound of water to help mask any unwanted noise.
Then grab a good book, your favorite beverage and escape to your own backyard retreat. You’ll leave the space refreshed and ready to embrace and enjoy whatever comes next.
Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” gardening DVD series and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio segments. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and was commissioned by AAS for her expertise to write this article. Myers’ web site is www.melindamyers.com.