Monday, November 1, 2010

A Sanctuary Garden

I want to invite you on a tour of a garden that is special to me.

 I was given the privilege of designing a "sanctuary garden" space for a local church, White's Chapel Methodist,
 in Southlake, Texas.

What is a sanctuary garden?   

Sanctuary is defined as "a place of refuge and protection."

According to the authors of  "The Sanctuary Garden: Creating a Place of Refuge in Your Yard or Garden," there are seven elements that make up a sanctuary garden.

I have outlined these elements below, along with pictures to show how they were incorporated into the garden.   I hope you enjoy your tour...

  • Entrance:  
This can be a formal gate or arch or an informal path set off by shrubs -- something that says you are now entering a special place. 

In this garden an entrance was constructed of stone columns and an iron arch with grapevine detailing.   

Grapevines were planted on each side of the columns.
  •  Water:   
Water features (fountains or ponds) create a soothing and inviting sound, attracting garden visitors both human and wildlife 

This water feature of three large urns is set in the center of the Celtic Cross seating area

  • Color and Lighting:
 Color can be added through plant material or possibly even a painted wall or fence to elicit emotion or comfort. 

Repeated use of plant material in  purple, blue, pink, and yellow flow throughout the garden.

Fall blooming Aster oblongifolius explodes with purple daisy-like blooms in October.

'Henry Duelberg' Salvia is a workhorse in the garden, blooming from early spring all the way to frost.

'May Night' Salvia, 'Bath's Pink' Dianthus, and
'Walker's Low' Catmint  
take center stage in the spring.

Knock-Out Roses are used at the entrance, in the middle, and at the far side of the garden to pull the bright pink color throughout the garden.

Mexican Mint Marigold brings a pop of bright yellow color in the fall.

 Another workhorse plant is my favorite perennial, Salvia greggii, bringing its vibrant pink color into the garden all season long.
Lighting can be use of artificial or natural lighting to create a mood, but also to  enhance safety in the garden. Location of trees, shrubs, and grasses can either bring needed shade to the garden or capture the natural light at different times throughout the day.

Ornamental grasses catch the light as their feathery plumes sway in the breeze.

This is my favorite of the grasses
 Miscanthus Sinensus 'Adagio'

The center of this bed is aglow in the evening light.

A Shumard Red Oak was planted on the west side of the garden to provide needed afternoon shade as it matures.


  •  Seating Areas:
Seating areas provide a place of rest for the body and soul, allowing the garden visitor to sit a spell and take in all of the sights, sounds, and smells of the garden 

A concrete bench is tucked 
among the plantings.
 Teak benches surround the Celtic Cross patio and fountains.

  • Natural features:  
Use of rocks, wood, natural fences, screens, trellises, wind, and sound bring natural elements into the garden to evoke emotion 

 Large boulders (purchased and found on the property) 
were added to the garden.  

To me, a garden just isn't complete without the addition of rocks and boulders.


A soothing sound comes from a bamboo wind chime as the wind moves it.  

Incidentally, trying to photograph a wind chime on a windy day is about like trying to photograph a butterfly flitting around.  Not easy, but worth it :-)

  • Art:
Elements of art enhance the overall mood of the garden 
and evoke a connection to the sanctuary space

The prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

A decorative iron cross stands among the blooms

A small frog ornament is placed next to a Knock-Out Rose that was
planted in honor of a friend in a cancer survivors group symbolizing...

And an engraved rock reminds us of The Master Gardener

  • Wildlife Habitat: 
Attracting a diversity of wildlife to share your garden sanctuary 
is the final element.

This can be achieved through water or plants 
or providing shelter for visitors of the critter kind.

 The Monarch butterflies have found sanctuary (and nectar) on the salvia!

  A Black Swallowtail and a Painted Lady stopped by for a visit, too.

I think this project was a great success, and my hope is that all who enter will find refuge
among the beauty of God's creation.

I owe a great big "thank you" to all of the volunteers
who put a lot of sweat equity into making this garden a reality!

Here are some of the "before" pictures to show you what the space looked like before it was transformed into a garden sanctuary.

And "after" ...the sanctuary garden today

As we leave our garden tour, I hope you are inspired to incorporate these elements into your garden space to make it a place of sanctuary.

Until next time...

Remember, a day without dirt under your nails is like a day without sunshine :-)

Toni :-)


  1. Thanks for the look into the sanctuary garden. Always a place for peace, reflection and solitude. A place where nature can rest and find comfort as well.

  2. @gardenwalk: Thanks for coming on the tour of the sanctuary garden :-) If only we would take the time to stop and rest and reflect just a little more often in our gardens instead of always being so busy working in them. I might just be speaking for myself, but I'm always trying to achieve perfection and rarely stop just to enjoy.

  3. Love it, Toni! Gorgeous garden and a blog well done!

  4. It definitely was a success. All of the elements combine to enrich each other. Thank you - definititely inspires me to think more about ALL of those elements.

  5. What a beautiful transformation! How wonderful to be able to say you designed such a place! Definitely a sanctuary.

  6. @pitgirlsync
    Thank you all for your kind comments!

  7. Beautiful post and design. You've created a place well suited for rest and reflection. I pray that many will seek and experience God's presence there.

  8. A very beautiful garden! So nice you had the chance to create it. It is Amazing

  9. @Garden Sense
    Thanks for stopping by and leaving such nice comments! I wish you could visit the garden and sit for a spell :-)

  10. What a beautiful and peaceful garden! I've always thought that all gardens are sanctuaries if they bring anyone or anything peace, comfort, and nourishment, be it spiritual or physical. Bravo for you! Great job!

  11. Beautiful place to find peace and rest for one's soul. I especially liked the plaques as they help lead one to pray. Thanks

  12. @TS:
    Thank you both for stopping by the sanctuary garden. Our challenge is to let our gardens be a place of sanctuary instead of always working like a dog in them!

  13. Wow! I'm in awe! You have a wonderful talent Toni!