Sunday, 26 February 2012

The Peace of Wild Things

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me 
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, 
and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. 

I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. 

For a time I rest in the grace of the world, 
and am free.

by Wendell Berry (1968)

Quite by accident, I stumbled across this poem this morning by Wendell Berry and I was completely drawn in by those few simple, perfectly ordered words. "...into the peace of wild things". 

Ask gardeners why they garden and you will hear many different and wonderful reasons, but I believe those reasons are all rooted to the same basic need. Beyond the beauty and the joys of creation lies a profound, inescapable connection to the earth; an ancient yearning that draws us in and commands us to stay away awhile. It is a seductive undertaking to conjure up and make real our own version of paradise. 

A garden offers escape, hope, healing, reassurance, a chance to breathe.

In the mornings I am lured by the perfumes of freshly turned soil, the scent of lavender, lemon balm and thyme, bird song and water trickling, the sparkle of dew and a serenity that comes from being witness to all of those things. 

Your version of a peaceful setting will be different than mine, this is a very personal thing. For me, woodland and Japanese (or zen) gardens are two gardening styles that perhaps best incorporate this bit of alluring wildness into the mix. I love trees and of course they are valuable for so many important reasons. They provide us with structure, rhythm and movement, an assortment of colour and interest, shade and protection, and bring a voice to the wind. They can be small and graceful, or large and stately and no matter the size of your space one can be found that will make your heart sing.

Here are a few of some of my favourite inspirational gardens - I think they all capture the essence of peace and serenity in the garden.

(Photo: The Honey Tree Nursery, PEI)

Grace in the garden with a planting of gorgeous Japanese snowbelles (styrax japonicas).

Hardy in zones 5-8, this smaller tree grows to height and spread of 25'...perfect for smaller yards. Dainty white blooms add beauty to the garden in late June. A touch of formality is offered up by the boxwoods. I love the curves of this rustic gravel pathway 
...leads the eye to the sculpture and fountain and what lies beyond.

Rick Darke's American Woodland Garden. The thoughtful design of this garden
created a truly spectacular and peaceful setting. Native plants were used extensively.
I would love to take a stroll beside the stream and meditate with nature for a while.

Image ⓒ Dency Kane from Barbara Pleasant’s Garden Stone

A small pond and fountain tucked away in the corner of the garden
brings pure pleasure to even the smallest yard or balcony. Natural stones smothered in moss anchor the dainty textures of ferns and grasses - a lovely, tranquil spot.

( Photo via

Chionanthus virginicus (White Fringe Tree):

I adore the wild and charming nature of this native tree which gifts white spring flower to the garden. Like the Japanese snowbell, this graceful beauty reaches heights of 12-20' and is hardy to zone 4. Last summer 

Utilities Kingston Water Conservation Garden: spring 2011
A little bit of peace in the midst of the city.

This is a project is very near and dear to my heart. 
My husband I designed and installed this section of the garden in 2009-2010. 
(Would you believe there is parking left just to the left of this photo.) 

Flagstone pathways lead to sitting stones overlooking the swale.
Sweet woodruff as ground cover, mingles through the hostas and tiarella - 

a contemplative space under the shade of silver maples 
for employees and the public to enjoy.

(Photo via

That wild and peaceful feeling can still be found within a more modern setting.
This lovely design by Samuel H. Williamson Associates incorporates simple lines
with a relaxed atmosphere created by a soothing palette. A water feature provides the soothing musical overtones to this alluring courtyard garden.

I would love to hear your thoughts 
and cherish your comments!

Have a beautiful day!


  1. Love the tree and Darke's wood! So beautiful. I have been trying to pick another tree for the side of our house... this might be it!

  2. Another favourite of mine is the seven son flower (Heptacodium miconioides) which provides fall flower - its very interesting and not used much.

  3. Rick Darke's garden looks ... well even wonderful doesn't seem like an adequate word.

  4. I just stumbled upon your site through some links at Enchanted Home, The Paper Mulberry, and Cottage-in-the-Woods....I love every poem, every quote, and every photo that you share about your love for garden...You inspire me..Count me as a fan! I will always look forward then to your new postings...I have been reading your posts since I found you the other day. Thanks for sharing your love for everything beautiful...whether it be found in words, gardens, poetry, or snippets of wisdom.

  5. My goodness Sydney...thank you so much for your kind words. You remind me how I have abandoned the keyboard in favour of new gardens, new plants and a very busy teaching teaching schedule. Perhaps you have inspired me to write some more this summer. Have a lovely day - and thank you!