Kentish Town landscape designer on how to create a wellbeing garden at home

A RHS award winning wellbeing garden by Kentish Town garden designer Alexandra Noble.

Create a calm and mindful space in your own back garden with muted colours and a design that appeals to the senses, such as Alexandra’s design for the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2018, featured here. - Credit: Anna Skorupska

No matter what size your garden is, make it nourish your soul by creating a calming space that appeals to the senses. 

Anyone who has gone into their garden after a stressful day understands that tending to your flower beds or lying on the grass relaxes hunched shoulders and smooths a furrowed brow.

We know that spending time in our gardens is good for our mental health, so then what makes a garden a wellbeing garden? 

A wellbeing garden design with a water feature.

Water features can add to a garden’s serenity with its sound and the movement in the water. - Credit: Alexandra Noble

Kentish Town garden and landscape designer Alexandra Noble says it comes down to a few things, but engaging the senses is key.

Alexandra won the 2018 RHS People’s Choice Award at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show for her health and wellbeing garden design, which enraptured the senses as a tonic to a plugged-in lifestyle. 

“Often we are at a laptop for the whole day and looking at a screen is one dimensional so we made sure we could hit every sense in some way,” she says. “Most gardens with a wellbeing focus take the senses into account.” 

Creating a calm space is also key, so don’t overload your garden.

“Simplicity is the way forward in terms of making you feel calmer,” she says. “So no clashing colours and try to simplify the layout as much as possible.”  

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Think about sounds you can introduce too, perhaps through a water feature. “Sound is so calming, it really is key,” Alexandra says, “and water is fantastic if you’ve got the space. There’s something about the sound it brings and the movement in the water.” 

Plant choice goes a long way in shaping the mood of your garden. Fragrance, colours, shapes and movement all add something to how your garden feels. Even a plant’s functionality adds dimensions to your green space.  

Wellbeing garden design by landscape designer Alexandra Noble

Consider using plants, such as the thyme featured here, that are beneficial to us as well as the environment. - Credit: Anna Skorupska

Alexandra suggests working with plants that are herbal, medicinal, fragrant or edible, which she used as her plant palette in her Hampton Court Palace design. “It is such a wide and varied palette to work with. Each plant is useful in some way and scented plants add so much to the atmosphere,” she says. “It is a celebration of the plants that are good for us. 

“So many plants are beneficial to our health. Growing a mix of herbs, pollinators, vegetables and edible flowers you can pop into cordial or tea are all tweaks you can make at home.” 

While ornamental grasses may not be consumable, they offer a garden “good points of interest” and are easy to maintain. “You don’t have to cut them back until February or March,” says Alexandra. “They look quite structural and importantly, I love the mood they bring to the garden.”  

A mix of evergreens, annuals, perennials and bulbs will help your garden “hit all the seasons” and let you enjoy it for longer. 

Early, mid and late season daffodils and tulips will see your garden brimming with colour for longer and planting winter flowering shrubs such as snowdrops or winter aconite will give you something to look at during the darker months. 

A garden path in a wellbeing garden by Alexandra Noble.

Alexandra’s design featured a circular path which was inspired by walking meditations and created an opportunity for people to take in the movement of the plants and sounds. - Credit: Alexandra Noble

If you feel like your neighbours can see everything you do, play with scale and height, creating exposed areas, and areas where you feel sheltered, says Alexandra, adding: “This will keep things interesting and will make you feel as if you’re in a private space.” 

Think about where you source your materials from and what they are made with as well. Sustainability and the wider environment may not be directly linked to your personal wellbeing, but then again, they also are.  

With this in mind, consider how you can support the wildlife living in your garden. If you have a pond, aquatic plants around its edge provides critters with a route out if they get stuck. 

Also, plant pollinators, which Alexandra says should be a priority in any garden. “It’s really important to support the environment and certain species.” she says.   

A selection of edible, herbal, medicinal and fragrant plants used in Kentish Town landscape designer's wellbeing garden.

The garden featured a palette of edible, herbal, medicinal and fragrant plants in a muted yellow and white colour scheme. This included artichoke for its architectural aesthetic, yarrow which is used to staunch wounds, fennel which is useful in cooking and the plant’s “frothy foliage looks ethereal en-masse”; and black mitcham mint for its powerful fragrance and striking purple stems - Credit: Alexandra Noble

“There are so many incredible plants for pollinators you’re not hard pressed for choice. There’s also something really nice about seeing butterflies and insects in your garden and it’s exciting to see something you haven’t seen before,” she adds. 

Like most things, what nurtures your sense of wellbeing is an individual thing, and your garden should reflect this. 

Depending on how you find your inner calm, you might try creating a space to lay out a yoga mat or carving out an area where you can entertain friends, working with produce you’ve grown in your garden.

Consider having different spots to sit at too – say a place that catches the sun for your morning coffee under a scented climbing rose, and then another area for entertaining that works with the evening light. 

For those of you who are not currently planning on a complete redesign but would still like to create a little more serenity in your garden, Alexandra suggests bringing in herbs and scented plants into your outdoor space (or window ledge) – even if it’s just a few pots here and there. You can extend your use of the garden as well, by adding lights or a small fire bowl.  

Alexandra Noble, garden designer, in her "The Health and Well

NW5 Garden and landscape designer, Alexandra Noble. - Credit: RHS / Luke MacGregor

Also keep your garden clutter-free. Do an edit of what you’ve got and lose anything that isn’t serving you or your garden. After you’ve purged, think about “which plants make your heart sing, and go maximal on those”.  

“The life and soul of a garden is conveyed through plants,” says Alexandra. “So bring in some favoured ones that you find particularly inspiring.”