Valley News -

By Roger Boddaert
Special to Valley News 

Create garden rooms for spring


Last updated 5/10/2018 at 12:22pm

Roger Boddaert

A framed doorway sits at the beginning of a walkway to an outdoor garden room.

With the arrival of spring and summer on the horizon, how about creating a "garden room" just outside the back door?

Garden rooms can be that little oasis that becomes a destination for living outdoors in the wonderful Southern California climate. How fortunate residents are in the Southland to live, play and enjoy a natural room setting that can be created from small to large in the backyard or in front of their homes.

In my garden, I have several of these types of garden spaces, and it's like each one has its own personality and unique theme. Some of those rooms are under some old ficus trees flanked with shade and aromatic plants, while I have constructed and staged other room areas in the sunshine for enjoying the summer rays along with hardy sun-loving plants.

A garden room can be that little niche that you just long for to get away for quiet contemplative moments of reading and practicing yoga or to use as a gathering place for friends, children and family.

It is not a room with walls, windows or doors but organically has the feeling of its own. Arbors or a wooden trellis can be the door; hedges can be trained to simulate a wall or a shade sail and the canopy of a shade tree can emulate a ceiling if so desired. It's all about using your creative juices and thinking outside of the box for the desired results.

Being out in nature has so many beneficial strokes and connectivity with the sights, sounds, smells and with a variety of plants that you can enjoy throughout the seasons. It is horticultural therapy.

The earth is the canvas upon which we live our lives, so why not make a garden room for a pleasurable experience that touches our souls for it should give you a spark of joy and happiness.

It could be that veggie patch area with some raised redwood planter boxes or galvanized tubs for growing your favorite fruits and herbs. Or how about a fruit orchard and the room space could be smack dab in the middle to enjoy a garden party on a summer's eve. Consider a small vineyard in the round with a cobblestone patio and a planked table with a few chairs to enjoy your own wines along with a loaf of homemade bread and some yummy cheeses on an autumn day.

When designing a garden room, I consider various types of natural flooring that match the surrounding environment. There are so many choices to incorporate such as flagstone, bricks, pavers, with a simple layer of pea gravel as the base flooring. The space can have different shapes, sizes, themes and looks, and by all means, it can be designed and planned as happy place for any family.

I like using native stones and boulders with those soft tan colors that complement native plantings. Even using field stone walls can bring a soft look to an area and define the space surrounding a garden room organically.

Some of the design components that I incorporate into these tranquil settings are space, form, texture, color, function, aroma, harmony and more. For it must be a place of happiness to enjoy thoroughly, in order to make it work and be functional to meet individual needs.

The space can have elements like wind chimes, a water feature or frame a view out on the horizon. It can be a simple hammock under a shade tree, a barbecue kitchen or a pathway leading to a hidden secret playhouse shelter for adults and children.

Maybe it's a place to erect a maypole while maidens dance around festooned with flowers in their hair on the eve of the summer solstice and celebrate a midsummer gathering while singing traditional old-fashioned Swedish farm songs. Oh yes, these are a few of my favorite things.

When laying out these gardens, I always ask my clients, "What do you want your garden to say?" And no two answers are the same.

It is my job as a landscape designer and horticulturist to put some options on the table, variables and a wide spectrum of choices, and it is endless in what can be created. Once all the bits and pieces are defined, then the pen is put to paper and the overall landscape design is created.

A secret garden area can range from a small cottage garden to a large expansive estate and can be that wonderful outdoor living room and an extension from the inside of the home leading to its own special space. A gazebo, a hut, yurt, shade sail, a teepee or a series of pergolas with shade canvas all can be considered for a garden room. So use your imagination, and by all means, make the garden a happy place.

Maybe it will be a quiet space for reading some poetry or "Peter Rabbit" to your grandchild upon your knee, which can be an experience that they will long remember in their hearts. Today's world has its own complexities and challenges, and a garden room can be a cathedral of peace and rest. At night I sit out in one of my garden rooms and listen to the owl's hoot, the frog's noise and the serenading of the canyon coyote, and that is a good thing.

In another one of my garden rooms, I planted 10 native California sycamore trees in a large 15-foot circle as young saplings.some years ago. As the branches and boughs grew up in height, I braided the supple branches to create a canopy overhead. So in the summer, when the foliage is out, the area below is shaded and cool, and in the winter when the leaves are bare, the arbor-tree room is splashed with light below.

Many types of trees can be used in this technique, and it's really a fun structure to be within and is an art form of arborsculpture. Under the canopy of the trees, I have some large tree stumps for sitting and just to rest awhile and enjoy the place.

Roger Boddaert

Inviting chairs help visitors to relax under the tree canopy in this garden room.

In landscape, architecture is all about having a plan before to setting shovel to soil. When you build a house, you require a plan, and it's just like that in garden designs, plan first.

A garden oasis can have different meanings for different people, and it's up to them to define just what they want in a garden room. Do a little homework before to hanging up that hammock. Go to spring home garden tours, check out a botanical garden or thumb through the swaths of gardening magazines that are out there now. Sunset magazine is a great source for garden, home, food and travel ideas. I recommend it highly.

I hope I have inspired you to consider a garden room for within that special sacred garden space are many moments for enjoyment.

Roger Boddaert, maker of natural gardens, can be reached at (760) 728-4297.


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