7 Things to Consider When Creating Gardens of Love and Forgiveness

Daffodils in GilChrist public retreat center garden

GilChrist public retreat center garden

Gardening can be an act of love and a healing endeavor. It can be a great way to practice presence, to release tensions of the day, and to cultivate peace. 

In 1997, in Beirut, Lebanon, a Garden of Forgiveness was created as a place of calm reflection within the city, and expressing themes of understanding, forgiveness, and unity. Conceived by Alexandra Asseily, the garden--still incomplete due to security issues--aims to nurture peace and healing. 

Creating a garden--large or small--where love and forgiveness are the focus of reflection takes thought and planning. Yet the payoff can be great.

Imagine having a peaceful place nearby where you can relax and spend time unwinding. What impact might such a place have on you and your relationships? 

Whether you want to create a small place to sit and reflect or an ambitious community garden, like the one in Beirut, here are seven things to consider: 

1. Planning: Careful planning can help you create a garden that best reflects the factors that are important to you, and that maximizes the impact of your space. Better Homes and Gardens offers a useful, interactive online planning tool. Get ideas by visiting local gardens, looking in magazines or on the internet. Contact your local garden club or horticultural society to find out about garden shows or community gardens of remembrance or reflection. Consider upkeep, seasonal variety of plants, and, of course, cost.

2. Location, Location, Location: Where will your garden be? Where is the sun over the course of the day? Do you want to expand on the view from the space or try to hide it? How much natural noise is there? Is there a natural border to the garden, such as a fence or hedge, or do you need to create one? What shape will your garden be? A circle signifies continuity and new beginnings, a square or rectangle is grounded, solid and permanent, and a triangle symbolizes life and procreation. 

3. A Focal Point: Many of the world's finest gardens draw the eye to a focal point. It could be a sculpture, rock, topiary, gate, fountain, tree, or a mass of one type of flower. Consider whether you would like to have something that symbolizes love and forgiveness to you, such as a statue, water feature, or wind chime. You could also place items strategically at the end of a pathway or next to a seating area. You may also want to write words, such as "serenity", "peace", "love", and "forgiveness", on large stones. 

4. A Place to Walk: Some people like to sit in stillness when they reflect; others prefer to walk around. Depending on the size of your space, consider whether you’d like to include a maze, labyrinth, or pathways. These can be created with different materials—grasses, hedges, mulch, pebbles or stones.

5. A Place to Sit: What kind of seating will you want—a bench, chair, or grassy knoll? Will it be in the sun or shade? Most people prefer to sit in a shady spot, except on a cool fall or winter day. Is it possible to have seating in both a shady and sunny spot? What will you hear, smell, and see from the seating area? 

6. The Birds and the Bees: Do you want to attract birds, butterflies, and other wildlife? Do you want to deter deer or rabbits? Think about having a birdbath or bird feeder in the garden. Research plants that attract butterflies. 

7. What Kinds of Plants?: Your garden of love or forgiveness can contain a broad variety of plants. As you contemplate your overall plan for plants, think about having a variety of colors, shapes, scents, textures, and heights. Consider which plants bloom at which times of the year so that there is visual interest throughout the year. Keep in mind which plants will grow in the particular zone where your garden is located.

Most of all, create a place that feels nurturing. As you care for your garden, it will do the same for you and the sentient beings you share it with.