Finding Balance

Now in its second year this meditation garden is a personal space for meditative walking and serves as a focal point for the entire garden. Within a twenty foot diameter circle red paving stones form the path of the labyrinth, while various plants form the walls.

Meditation Circle Oct 26 2012

My original plan to have year-round interest, at least along some of the pathways, has been only partly successful.

I knew this year was to be an experiment to learn what plants might work best in the meditation circle. I realize now that I did lots of worrying and obsessing about the plantings, but not enough time enjoying the meditation garden. Though many plants did well, it was disappointing this summer when a large number of the perennials starting dying. Sadly once that happened I spent very little time actually walking the labyrinth.

Then last week I worked over several days to tidy up the circle, which had become a little neglected. I devoted hours to it—trimming plants and mulching, and carefully brushing off the stones—and in those hours time seemed to stand still.

Here are some views of the plants in the meditation garden after the cleanup was finished:

  • Dianthus lines the entrance.

    Dianthus Lines Labyrinth Entrance

  • Angelonia angustifolia ‘Angelface Blue’ (Summer Snapdragon), an annual, is still blooming for now but will soon need to be removed. It runs along two walls on the left side of the entrance.

    Angelonia angustifolia ‘Angelface Blue’ (Summer Snapdragon) In Meditation Circle

  • Penstemon mexicali ‘Pike’s Peak Purple’ (Beardtongue) is a hot desert plant that runs along the outer wall starting on the right side of the entrance. Beautiful this spring and early summer, it unexpectedly died back. [too much rain? voles?] See this Penstemon in bloom on May 11, 2012.

    Dieback of Pike’s Peak Purple Penstemon (back wall) and Candytuft (center). In between the two, mounds of thyme  provided the only green in this part of the circle from midsummer on.

  • Iberis sempervirens ‘Purity’ (Candytuft) bloomed prolifically during the mild winter and through spring, then most died. Only a couple of plants now appear to be living. The center of the labyrinth should have been green all summer; instead the color of brown mulch dominates. [too much rain? voles?]  See the Iberis in bloom on March 24, 2012.
  • Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (Beardtongue) guards several of the turnarounds. Several self-seeded volunteers are planted in-between the ‘Pike’s Peak Purple’ also. This plant is not as showy as hoped but it has been reliable.

    Angelonia angustifolia ‘Angelface Blue’ (Summer Snapdragon) lines either side of this path until the turnaround is reached. Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (Beardtongue) walls off the turnaround and directs traffic to the right.

  • Thyme purchased as Thymus x citriodorus (Silver Edge Thyme), was probably mislabeled. It has no lemon scent, no scent at all when crushed. This thyme looked dead last winter and I planned to replace it. Before I got around to it though the thyme began to turn green. It barely bloomed at all, but the mounds spread and looked healthy all summer.

    Mounds of Thyme were green all summer. In the foreground is one of the few remaining Pike’s Peak Purple Penstemon.

  • Notes: 1) Pine bark mulch floated away during heavy rainstorms this summer and required a lot of redistribution, so I decided to switch back to hardwood mulch (which also has a less obtrusive texture). 2) The blue gazing ball was a temporary marker for the center of the labyrinth, never intended to become a permanent fixture. A bench or stool will replace it one day.

During the cleanup of the meditation circle last week I was reminded it is calming to be in this space, hearing the birds chatter, catching a brave one sneak a seed from the feeder. Laughter spills into the garden from children at a nearby playground. A monarch butterfly sails over, heading toward the nourishment of Zinnia nectar. Sun breaks through the clouds and warms my skin.

In those suspended moments I reconnected with whatever compelled me to build a labyrinth last year. I took time again to walk along the meditation path, stopping to notice a fallen petal, a small pile of stones, a bright tuft of moss, a leaf. These little things along the path are what seemed worthy of attention that day—the Candytuft’s browned stems barely registered when I passed.

At some point, measuring my pace along the 87 steps that lead into the center of the labyrinth, I realized something I had known before. The meditation garden is a place to come to observe and enjoy and just be, and though not perfect, it is serving its purpose well when I take the time to be there.

The cleanup work I did last week was restorative for the garden, but also for me. Along with a renewed appreciation for this special place that I have created for myself, I enjoyed a peace that comes with being close to nature and a respect for simple gifts. A deep sense of balance has returned.

12 thoughts on “Finding Balance

  1. Cathy

    Wonderful. Simply working and being in the garden is also restorative for me. Your circle looks lovely now, as many things have died back. Perhaps “less is more”? I often think gardeners are too critical of individual plants – myself included! But when we step back and look at the garden as a whole the value is immense. I hope you find a few alternative plants that please you more next year Susie!

    1. pbmgarden Post author

      Thanks, I really appreciate you helping me keep things in perspective Cathy. “Less is more” may be the best approach because it returns the focus to meditation.

  2. Christina

    As Cathy said I too just enjoy being in the garden and find it restorative. Have you tried Hyssop as a small hedging plant, it’s perfumed and small and neat and drought tolerant. Christina

    1. pbmgarden Post author

      Thanks for the plant suggestion Christina. I haven’t grown Hyssop but sounds like it might work well and I love the idea of including fragrant plants in the garden.

  3. Sandra Jonas

    Looks wonderful! Love the pattern of the stones against the mulch. Plants are wonderful but really incidental to the strong design.
    Every garden needs a place for meditation, although many gardeners never have the time to use them! My Mourning Bench is mine.


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