Designing a peace garden

Posted on April 23, 2021 by Sonoma Valley Sun


Karen Boness | The Sonoma Garden (from The Sun archives)

Most of us would agree that there is a lot more upset, misunderstanding, violence, and war in the world than we would like. It seems like every time we tune into the news tragedy and confrontation abound. We can bury our heads in the sand, complain, get politically involved, volunteer for a charitable organization or try to spread goodwill and forgiveness. Most of all we want peace.

As a landscaper and plant lover, I like to think about how this desire for peace could be expressed in a landscape design. I am not alone. I googled peace garden and found a website titled 156 Peace Gardens Around the World.

The one I’m most familiar with is the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, Japan (pictured). I lived and taught there for a year and cycled through the park every Wednesday on my way to my classes. I learned to avoid the Children’s Peace Monument because it always made me weep.

Not all of us live near a peace park. So how can we bring the contemplation of peace into our own little backyard gardens? If we have the money, space and time we can install peace poles, erect small statues of famous people associated with peace, and start raising doves. I like those ideas. However, as a plant nerd, I am even more pleased that there are plants both big and small that are associated with peace. We can put them in our planting plans.

The book The Language of Flowers: A Novel by Vanessa Diffenbaugh only lists one plant, the olive, as a symbol of peace. There are others. Below is a peaceful plant list to consider for your garden. Next time, I’ll provide two sketches for the peaceful garden. One will suit a diminutive patio terrace. The other will pander to an expansive growing area. What fun! I love this stuff.

The peaceful plant palette:

Olive (Olea europaea). Drought tolerant tree. Grey green foliage. Evergreen. Fast growing. Full sun. 2.            Apple (Malus pumula). Loves water but can be pretty tough once stabled. Bright green foliage. Deciduous.

Apple. Moderate grower. Full sun. Beautiful pink blossoms that fade to white.

Lavender (Lavendula sp.) There are many species, cultivars and sizes. Evergreen. Woody shrub. Grey green to medium green foliage. Full sun. Flowers may be deep purple, lavender, pink or white. Aromatic, and water-wise.

Violets (Viola odorata). Violets are shade to part sun-loving annuals that reseed vigorously. Purple-blue blossoms. Great scent. About 6” tall by 12” wide. Prefer moderate water.

White Poppies (Eschscholzia californica “Alba” or “White Linen” OR Amapolas blanca. All are annuals that love the sun and reseed vigorously. Low to moderate water. Blossoms vary from creamy white to pure white.


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