Finding A Garden Paradise Within

By Linda Wiggen Kraft

It was ten-year-olds who turned my world upside down as a garden designer. For years I had designed gardens in a traditional way. I found out what a person wanted in a garden by the inspirations they had seen in magazines, books, at public gardens and gardens of others. Then I would go ahead and hopefully create a garden paradise based on that. What I didn’t realize was that all humans, even at ten years of age, carry a garden paradise within already. By bringing the essence of that paradise into a garden a match was created between inner landscape of a person and the outer landscape of a garden. I chanced upon this revelation one day when I was working with ten year olds.

I was asked by my son’s teacher to come help with a science assignment for 5th graders. The students had to design a garden creating a scale drawing on graph paper; pick out garden plants that could be trees, shrubs, annuals or perennials; and find out the botanical names of the plants, how large they grew and how to grow them.

I gave the students an introduction to my work, showed them how they could make scale drawings and how to find out about plants. I told them the hardest part was figuring out what kind of garden to design. There were many styles and thousands upon thousands of plants to choose from. I said they might have some ideas within themselves already and that we would go on an imagination journey to find out. The imagination journey was a guided meditation. I had them close their eyes if they wanted and asked them to imagine they were any place on earth where they felt good, safe and wanted to be there. I asked them to imagine spending some time in this place, sitting down if they wanted and just observing. I then asked them to be observant of what they were seeing, hearing, smelling, touching and if they were eating something. I asked what emotions they were feeling. I let them take some time with all of this. After about ten minutes, I asked them to open their eyes if they were closed and to write and draw about their experiences.

What the children shared with me almost made me cry. Their vivid experiences made me realize that each person has a paradise within. One girl’s vision of paradise was in the jungle. She said, “I could hear a big waterfall and I swear that the world stopped and I felt I was the only one there, so quiet.” Another girl’s paradise included a creek where she and her friends could splash each other to cool off and play, “cross the creek”. She said: “I was happy and having fun. I wish I could stay here forever.” A shy boy said he was in Paradise, where it was warm and smelled like syrup. He could reach up and put his lips on the flower and suck the nectar. A girl who loved her grandmother said she was in her grandmother’s backyard with her friend. The garden was full of sweet smelling roses. She said: “I was happy there and it was fun.” One girl said she was in her “own secret garden full of red, pink, purple, white, yellow and blue flowers. I feel peaceful and happy.” A boy said he was in the middle of nowhere. It was grassy with big plants, fruits and flowers. He was happy because animals could talk to him. A boy who was an avid hockey player described his paradise as an ice rink surrounded by tropical plants that smelled like strawberries. There was a stream around the ice rink with fish and frogs that were “so cute”. Perhaps the best part of his paradise was that in this ice rink when he played hockey, he always won.

By sharing their experiences I saw that the seeds for a garden for their souls had grown in their hearts. And as a garden designer my job is to bring the essence of those heart visions into the landscape of a garden. Any person with a garden can do this exercise to find their garden paradise that already grows within. It’s a simple easy journey.

Linda Wiggen Kraft is a landscape designer who creates holistic and organic gardens. She is also a mandala artist and workshop leader. Visit her blog: www.CreativityForTheSoul.com/blog or website: www.CreativityForTheSoul.com. Contact her at 314 504-4266.