Imagine the setting – a cornucopia of tropical planting shadowing a hidden oasis of calm, replete with hot tub, comfortable loungers, subtle lanterns and tea lights dotted around, and the scent of jasmine in the air.

This might seem like an unrealistic aspiration of how to create the perfect garden sanctuary, especially if you have a small space. But if you’re able to include just a few of these features in your outdoor space – which all star in Chelsea garden designer Kate Gould’s ‘Out Of The Shadows’ sanctuary garden this year – you could be on the road to zen.


Gould’s creation is a lesson in how post-pandemic gardens are being asked to work harder for us than ever. Not only to grow plants but to provide an outdoor extension to our homes, where we can relax, exercise, entertain and eat.

“The RHS has a category called Sanctuary Gardens and it’s my interpretation of what coming out of Covid was, in terms of clients making their gardens safe, usable and able to exercise in and gather in small numbers,” says Gould.

The garden features a state-of-the-art jacuzzi swim spa, spaces for seating and relaxation, climbing bars, and a yoga/meditation space all elegantly situated among dramatic and exotic tropical-style planting.

Create a spa sanctuary in your garden

Here, Gould offers a few pointers on how to create your own garden sanctuary…

1. Plants are key


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“My idea of sanctuary would be digging a big hole and gardening. If you are talking about creating a spa feeling, it’s more than anything about the plants,” she says.

“If you want to use a spa all year, a lot of the plants will have to be evergreen, which either leads you down a supermarket car park look, which you don’t want, or a more tropical look using palms, ferns, leafy perennials, or other plants which will give you that lush green look.”

Gould’s Chelsea garden features palm trees, bamboo, false pepper trees and ferns. White or blue flowers will pop out in the sunnier aspect at the front, but the whole effect is a subtle, muted palette.

2. Create a canopy

If you have a tree fern, you could be nestled under a canopy to make the area feel really private.

3. Use subtle lighting

Outdoor seating in your garden spa
Subtle lighting in an outdoor dining area (Helen Fickling Photography/PA)

“You can light the canopy beautifully, because all those plants light beautifully at night. Really simple uplighters are very effective at lighting trees and don’t necessarily cost the earth. You also don’t have to see them,” says Gould.

“Then you have decorative lights like standard lamps and lanterns, floor-mounted objects which look amazing and you can just layer it up. The only thing you really want is to make sure, if you are using electrics, is that somebody qualified installs it for you.”

4. Consider an outdoor shower

Bearded hipster man taking an outdoor shower in a garden with plants

An open-air shower might be just the ticket on hot, balmy summer days or nights, but get a professional to install it for you. Create privacy by sheltering it with plants, Gould suggests.

5. Give yourself space to stretch

“In the Chelsea garden I’ve designed, there’s space to do some yoga to relax or meditate, even though the space is only 10m by 10m. We have a very light gravel area, and you’d have a dense yoga mat on top of it. It’s surrounded by bamboo and tree ferns and acres so it feels very quiet.”

6. Make cosy seating areas

“This has changed over the years. If you have a large area and can really customise it, you could make it long and low and really comfortable with cushions. But remember you will have to put the cushions away in the winter,” says Gould. “Otherwise, there are many other lovely furniture options to choose from. Modular sofas can be assembled in the configuration you want [and many] come with waterproof covers.

“Spas tend to want to be relaxing, so if you choose colours which uplift you, such as reds and yellows, you’d probably avoid those. Go with gentle blues, greys and greens because that will also reflect the planting.”

7. What about water?

With Covid, more people are investing in their gardens, which means they might put in a swim spa – a large jacuzzi with a current in it which you can swim against – says Gould, whose Chelsea garden will be incorporating one of these.

“The spa becomes not only something you can sit in for relaxation, but you can exercise in it,” she notes. “Water’s like Marmite – you either love it or hate it. If you have a spa, you can get in it and sit there in the bubbles, and maybe drink bubbles when you’re in it. Alternatively, a still pool of water can reflect.

“But you could equally have a sculpture or a firepit, which is less to maintain and might aesthetically fit the garden and doesn’t necessarily need the upkeep that a water feature would.”

8. Scent-sational plants

“The best one for this is Chinese jasmine (trachelospermum), which has lovely glossy evergreen foliage and flowers in the winter. You could also have a Christmas box. If you have lots of pots and a bit of sunshine, you could plant pittosporum, which smells like holidays,” says Gould. “You probably wouldn’t want to mix your messages, so if you are going down a leafy, tropical theme, you will not want to put lavender in.”

Best-selling garden furniture

Stuck for inspiration? Check out our list of best-selling Amazon products!

SaleBestseller No. 1
EVRE Rattan Garden Furniture Set Patio Conservatory Indoor Outdoor 4 piece set
  • POPULAR ADAPTABLE DESIGN This furniture set is perfect to use in your garden, patio, in your conservatory or your outdoor balcony, the Evre Madrid is just right for a small family or for when you’re...
  • ECO-FRIENDLY, RESILIENT & COMFORTABLE This set is made of high quality, fully recyclable PE rattan, ensuring that it is UV resistant & very low maintenance! The coffee table top is super stylish with...
  • EASY CLEANING The rattan material is wipeable and really easy to clean, use a damp cloth or antibacterial wipes and dry completely. The removable cushion covers are dirt resistant and shower-proof,...
Bestseller No. 2
URBNLIVING 3pc Outdoor Garden Furniture Cushioned Black Rattan Table Chair Bistro Conversation Set
  • 3 Piece Garden Lounge Set
  • Rattan Look
  • Features 1 Table & 2 Chairs Plus Cushions
Bestseller No. 3
COSMO BUY 4 Piece Rattan Garden Furniture Set Outdoor Patio Sofa, table and chairs garden table...
  • PREMIUM QUALITY MATERIAL: Made of premium Poly Rattan weave material, luxurious and trendy look with addition of moderate Tempered Safety Glass placed on top of the Table. Low Maintenance rattan patio...
  • WEATHER RESISTANCE: Made of High-Density Poly rattan material save the garden patio set from the UV rays. This patio set is manufactured to save from fading and cracking caused by weather.
  • COMFORTABLE CUSHIONS: Thick padded cushions (included) for comfort sitting. Experience the worry-free sitting that lets you sink into comfort.
Bestseller No. 4
ASOWNSUN 4-Piece Rattan Garden Sofa Furniture Set –Indoor Outdoor Garden Furniture Rattan Set...
  • Elegant Outdoor Living: Transform your outdoor space with our 4-piece rattan garden furniture set. Crafted with premium rattan, it adds an elegant touch to your patio, deck, or garden, enhancing the...
  • Comfortable Back and Seat: Experience unparalleled comfort with ergonomically designed seating. The set includes plush cushions and pillows, providing a luxurious and cozy seating arrangement. Enjoy...
  • Versatile Arrangement Options: This furniture set offers endless configuration possibilities to suit your outdoor needs. Whether hosting a barbecue, lounging with a book, or enjoying a cozy dinner,...
Bestseller No. 5
Panana 8 Seater Rattan Garden Furniture Set Dining Table and Chairs Stools Set Outdoor Patio and...
  • DIMENSIONS: Table: W 42.91 x D 42.91 x H 29.53 inch; 4 x Chairs: W 21.65 x D 20.87 x H 26.38-33.07 inch; 4 x Stools: W 16.14 x D 16.14 x H 15.75 inch
  • HIGH QUALITY MATERIAL: Constructed with a PE rattan weave material which never needs to be painted or treated, UV treated and fade resistant
  • EXCELLENT FOR LOW MAINTENANCE: 5mm tempered safety glass tabletop, all showerproof cushions covers are machine washable & removable
Bestseller No. 6
Straame 4PC Rattan Garden Furniture Set with Table, Double Seated Sofa and 2 Cushion Chairs,...
  • RATTAN GARDEN FURNITURE 4PCS: Made of premium material with a universal design and available in two colours, the 4 pieces set (1xDouble Seated Sofa, 2xArmchair and 1xTea Table) will suit all type of...
  • LUXURY LOOK PATIO SET: Level up your summer evening meals with Straame chic garden rattan furniture set and create some quality time with your family in the comfort of your garden. The heavy-duty...
  • STYLE AND COMFORT: The rattan set is available in two different neutral colours that will match any decoration in your garden or patio. With a clean construction and classic design, the set will give...

Last update on 2024-02-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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