Your meditative retreat should have a sense of enclosure. It will help you focus your thoughts inward. It also gives a feeling of protection. Above all, enclosure creates a sense of privacy.
The whole idea is to get away from the rest of the garden, so screen the garden from view if possible. Planting is the best way to accomplish this. A formal or informal hedge, a loose screen of plants, or even a bed of tall perennials can give you the privacy you want.
If planting a screen is not an option, orientation is another way to gain a sense of privacy. The use of orientation simply means putting your back to the view you don't want to see. For example, facing seating away from the house may be all that's needed to create a sense of privacy and detachment even though the retreat is very close to the house.
A secluded area does not have to be large. In fact, the smaller and more intimate, the better. A space as small as 8 feet square is large enough for a couple of chairs and a small table, which is all that is needed for quiet, tranquil place.
If your property has many levels, take advantage of them. Going up or down a flight of steps contributes to the sense of destination and literally creates a separation from one area to another. To accentuate a level change, you can add a few steps on sloping ground.
Level changes are also useful in blocking unpleasant views. An elevation of a few feet can be enough to obscure the view of the house or anything else you don't want to see. If the level change isn't quite enough to hide the view you're trying to block, you can plant a row of shrubs on top of a mound or berm (an artificial mound of soil). The same thing can be accomplished by siting your hideaway on the far side of a hill, mound, or berm.
Taking the idea of level changes to the extreme, if your property is flat, you can create a level change by digging a sunken garden or by putting your getaway in a tree.
Keep in mind that level changes and some of the other ideas discussed here can be used to enhance your view out of a space as well as control who can see in.
Get more ideas for dealing with a slope.
Once you reach your destination and feel secure and private, you need to enjoy what you see. Pay attention to the view you have and other details.
Your favorite spot for relaxing may borrow a view from off-site. Perhaps it's the skyline of the city, a view up a stream, or a vista of the horizon.
Continued on page 3: Accents and Details