Grow Your Own
If you’ve ever planted a seed and nurtured it through to adulthood, you’ll know the sense of satisfaction that comes from it. Creating an edible garden where you get to experience growing, with the added bonus of consuming the results, is a great way of connecting with your outdoor space.
Where space is scarce it can often seem tricky to incorporate any planting into the home, let alone a grow-your-own veg patch. This is a massive concern for city-dwellers, many of whom have to contend with small balconies and awkward outdoor layouts. Vertical and robust planting systems present an excellent space saving option, meaning you don’t have to give up any of your existing space to accommodate a garden! For those with the dreaded concrete garden, often created for so-called ease in rental properties, raised planters or potted planting are affordable methods of introducing greenery where direct access to soil is lacking.
If you consider yourself to be a lapsed gardener, or are worried about the commitment of looking after another living thing, using an app can be a quick way of troubleshooting and connecting with the wider gardening community. There are a range of choices available; from mySoil and its built-in fertilizer calculator, to Gardenize for note taking, and iNaturalist for sharing any observations or changes to the biodiversity within your garden.
Activity-based interactions with the garden additionally increases our time spent outside; enticing us out of our home-offices and into the sun, even for half an hour, has a massive impact on our wellbeing. In Biophilic Design we call this a ‘photon shower’; sunlight triggers a release of serotonin – also known as the ‘happy hormone’ – which is responsible for regulating a range of our bodily functions such as sleep, mood, digestion, and healing.[i]
Create a Social Centrepiece
The most common misconception we hear about Biophilic Design is that it must revolve around planting. Meaningful connections with others and cultivating community are also essential aspects of the practice, and the garden is an excellent place to facilitate this. After restrictions introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic, socialising in outdoor spaces is no longer a foreign concept and for many of us has become a ritual we would like to sustain moving forward.
Often what is lacking within garden spaces is a focal point; a centrepiece which grounds the surrounding elements and acts as a beacon. An open fire or chimenea, carefully bordered by seating, is a source of both light and warmth – drawing people in to gather around it. This can also help to activate outdoor spaces during the colder months, a time when many of us are particularly guilty of neglecting our gardens!
For our Westfield pop-up, ‘Healthy Home’, we chose an Ivyline firepit bowl and stand from John Lewis. Made from cast iron, it’s rich patina finishing contrasts beautifully against natural materials and planting alike. When deciding what furniture to surround your focal point with, make sure to consider both durability and comfort. Picking out robust pieces which will last through the changing seasons along with soft furnishings which can be easily removed and stored inside will ensure both longevity and comfort.
Design a Lush Garden Escape
Over half of us now live in cities, with the UN predicting that the percentage of those living in urban environments by 2050 will be a whopping 68%.[i] In these busy, built-up, and noisy environments it is now more important than ever to ensure our homes provide spaces for respite. Creating an area of the garden which you can retreat to as an individual, is equally as important as ensuring there is space for making connections and socialising.
For our pop-up at Westfield London, we used a corner of the garden area to design in a purposeful place to rest and recharge. These types of spaces are best placed within the corners of the garden for two reasons; they utilise an area which is chronically underused and gives the occupant a sense of refuge while also allowing them views outwards. We built upon this feeling of refuge and prospect by incorporating a high-backed Dante hanging pod chair from John Lewis, which nestled in perfectly.
We often seek respite after we have already reached our peak stress levels, meaning our minds are usually still whirring away and it might take a while to fully switch-off. In these instances, it is helpful to seek out effortless attention – something to look at which is non-threatening and organically repetitive in movement. Nature offers this to us by way of planting: grasses, such as carex, which are reactive to light breezes, a group of sunflowers which gently sway, or leafy trees which softly rustle. Keep this in mind when you’re selecting plants for your garden, positioning them so that they are easily visible from seating areas.
An important aspect of designing a lush garden escape, is reducing or masking noise disturbance from the surrounding environment. Incorporating a small dynamic water feature creates ‘pink noise’, which is effective at helping to mask continuous low-level, yet disruptive, sounds. Introducing water into the garden also encourages biodiversity – inviting birds and insects to inhabit it and in turn adding another layer of biophilic sound. It’s easy to discount the adverse effects of disturbing, yet mostly invisible, noise levels. But with 1 in 5 people in Europe alone exposed to harmful levels of noise on a regular basis[ii], it can no longer be an after-thought – especially when it comes to spaces for restoration.