How to turn your backyard into a spa sanctuary


Imagine the setting – a cornucopia of tropical plantings shading a hidden oasis of calm, filled with a hot tub, comfy lounge chairs, subtle lanterns and dotted tea lights, and the scent of jasmine in the air. ‘air.

It might seem like an unrealistic aspiration as to how to create the perfect garden sanctuary, especially if you have a small space. But if you’re able to include a few of these features in your outdoor space – all of which are featured this year in Chelsea garden designer Kate Gould’s ‘Out Of The Shadows’ sanctuary garden – you could be on the way to zen.

Gould’s creation is a lesson in how post-pandemic gardens are asked to work harder than ever for us. Not just to grow plants, but to provide an outdoor extension to our homes, where we can relax, exercise, entertain and eat.

A CGI image of Kate Gould’s future Chelsea Garden (Enscape/PA)

“The RHS has a category called Sanctuary Gardens and that is my interpretation of what the Covid exit was like, in terms of customers making their gardens safe, usable and able to exercise and congregate in small numbers “says Gould.

The garden features a state-of-the-art jacuzzi swim spa, seating and relaxation areas, climbing bars and a yoga/meditation area, all elegantly set among spectacular and exotic tropical-style plantings. .

Here, Gould offers some tips on how to create your own garden sanctuary…

1. Plants are essential

“My idea for a sanctuary would be to dig a big hole and garden. If you’re talking about creating a spa feeling, it’s all about the plants first,” she says.

“If you want to use a spa all year round, a lot of the plants will have to be evergreen, which either takes you to a supermarket parking lot look, which you don’t want, or a more tropical look with palm trees. , ferns, leafy perennials, or other plants that will give you that lush green look.

Gould’s Chelsea Garden includes palms, bamboo, pepper plants and ferns. White or blue blooms will appear in the sunnier look at the front, but the overall effect is a subtle, muted palette.

2. Create an awning

If you have a tree fern, you could be tucked under a canopy to make the area really private.

3. Use subtle lighting

Subtle lighting in an outdoor dining area (Helen Fickling Photography/PA)

“You can light up the canopy beautifully, because all of these plants light up beautifully at night. Really simple uplighters are very good at illuminating trees and don’t necessarily cost the earth. You don’t have to see them either” , explains Gould.

“Then you have decorative lights like floor lamps and lanterns, floor mounted things that look amazing and you can just layer them. The only thing you really want is to make sure, if you’re using electricity, have someone qualified install it for you.

4. Consider an outdoor shower


On hot, balmy summer days or nights, an outdoor shower may be the perfect solution, but have a professional install it for you. Create privacy by sheltering it with plants, suggests Gould.

5. Give yourself space to stretch

“In the Chelsea garden that I designed, there is room to do yoga to relax or meditate, even though the space is only 10m by 10m. We have a very light gravel area and you would have a dense yoga mat on it. It’s surrounded by bamboo, tree ferns and acers so it’s very quiet.”

6. Create cozy seating areas

“That has changed over the years. If you have a large area and can really customize it, you can make it long and low and really comfy with throw pillows. But remember that you will have to put the cushions away in the winter,” says Gould. “Otherwise there are many other beautiful furniture options to choose from. Modular sofas can be assembled in the configuration you want [and many] come with waterproof covers.

“Spa tends to want to be relaxing, so if you choose colors that uplift you, like reds and yellows, you’ll probably avoid them. Go for soft blues, grays and greens as this will also reflect the planting.

7. What about water?

With Covid, more people are investing in their gardens, which means they could install a swim spa – a large hot tub with a current you can swim in – says Gould, whose Chelsea garden will incorporate one of between them.

“The spa not only becomes something you can sit in to relax, but you can also exercise in it,” she notes. “Water is like the Marmite – love it or hate it. If you have a spa, you can walk in and sit in the bubbles, and maybe drink bubbles while you’re there. Alternatively, a pool of calm water can reflect.

“But you could also have a sculpture or a fire pit, which is less to maintain and can fit aesthetically into the garden and doesn’t necessarily need the upkeep that a water feature would.”

8. Fragrant plants

“The best for this is Chinese jasmine (trachelospermum), which has beautiful glossy evergreens that bloom in winter. You could also have a Christmas box. If you have lots of pots and some sun, you can plant some pittosporum, which smells like the holidays,” says Gould. “You probably wouldn’t want to mix up your messaging, so if you’re going for a leafy tropical theme, you won’t want to put in lavender.”


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