If you’ve taken part in the recent adult coloring book fad, you are no doubt familiar with mandala shapes. What is a mandala garden? Continue reading for the answer.
By definition, a mandala is “a geometric shape or pattern that symbolizes the universe; a meditation tool for creating sacred spaces, relaxation, and focusing the mind; or a symbol used as a gateway to a spiritual journey”. Mandalas are usually a circle that contain starburst, floral, wheel, or spiral patterns within it. A mandala garden is simply a garden space with plants that take on this design principle.
Traditional mandalas were actually a square containing a circle which contained these patterns. Also, in traditional mandalas, the four directions (north, east, south and west) or the four elements (earth, air, fire and water) were often represented in the mandala pattern.
By building a mandala garden, you create a sacred space for quiet reflection and meditation. As stated above, mandalas are generally circular with patterns inside. Mandala gardens are also created as circular gardens and the inner patterns are created by paths and plant beds.
A simple mandala garden design may just consist of paths that run through the circle like spokes on a bicycle wheel. The wedge shaped beds between spoke paths would then be filled with aesthetic and aromatic plants. Ideally, the plants in mandala gardens are small and easily accessible so that each plant can be easily maintained from the paths.
Common plants in mandala gardens include:
Herbs of any kind make excellent additions to mandala gardens. They have also been created using vegetables or just aesthetically pleasing plants. What you put in your mandala garden should be based on your own preferences – what plants make you feel happy and peaceful? These are the plants you’ll want to add to a do-it-yourself mandala garden.
Mandala garden design will depend on the space you have and your budget. Mandala gardens can be huge and filled with elaborate curved or spiral paths. They can include a seating or meditation area. Many times, large mandala gardens will have a water feature in the center to bring the calming sound of rushing water to the sanctuary. Usually, a lawn for meditation or a seating area is located near the water feature.
Not all of us have room for a large elaborate mandala garden. Small mandala gardens can still feel like a secluded, sacred space by ringing them with tall grasses, columnar shrubs, or evergreens.
Again, depending on your preference and/or budget, mandala garden paths can be made with sand, pebbles, bricks, or tiles, and plant beds can be edged with plastic edging, large stones, bricks, or concrete edgers. Plant beds can be filled with mulch or rock. You can add extra flair to wheel-patterned mandala garden designs by alternating different colors of rock and mulch.
The main characteristic of a mandala garden is its shape. The circle is the basis of the layout. A mandala can be made on different scales: large or small, regardless of the diameter. The only constraints are the circular shape, but also the orientation. Indeed, the Mandala garden is inspired by the Indo-Tibetan tradition, it is indexed on the 4 cardinal points and thus linked to the 4 elements: Earth, Air, Water, Fire. These lines represent the symbols common to all of humanity. This drawing of the mandala traces functional aisles to connect all these flowerbeds so that you can walk, walk and work easily.
In a mandala garden, the soil is very important, and this is where permaculture is of great interest. In this very pragmatic way of farming, flat beds are often alternated with mound crops. The interest of mound cultivation is to introduce a third dimension, thus making it possible to plant greater diversity on the same surface and thus increase productivity. The mounds also aerate the soil. The ground being in a position perpendicular to the solar radiation, this also allows the ground to warm up faster. Obviously, the soil is never left bare and good combinations of plants are also two fundamental principles allowing abundant harvests, without exhausting the soil.
The mandalas gardens are all unique, limited only to the imagination of its creator. To create a mandala garden, you have to think about it and then draw it. Here is a selection of the most beautiful Mandala gardens in Permaculture around the world.
Now let’s imagine, for a moment, that you do not have an area of horizontal space that you can devote to a vegetable garden. Imagine that you only have a thin strip of land against a vertical wall or fence.
Interestingly, you could still consider growing a wide range of crops, even when you have very little space available. You can use vertical gardening techniques, and think in the vertical plane as well as the horizontal one.
By using trellis, shelving, planters and hanging containers in a range of innovative ways, you could still grow plenty of food against a sunny wall or fence. The image above shows one potential layout idea for a vegetable garden of this type.
In this image you can see:
Of course, this is just one potential layout for this type of vegetable garden. You can be inventive and find a range of innovative ways to grow more food in less space.
There are plenty of other ways to create layouts that work well for you, and for your plants. But these interesting layout ideas for your vegetable garden may help you work out a garden design that is perfect for you, and for where you live.
When you get the design and layout right, you will create a foundation that you can continue to build on for years to come. And your garden may be able to provide you with more food than you ever imagined.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer, permaculture designer and green living consultant. She is a practical, hands-on gardener, with a background in philosophy: (an MA in English-Philosophy from St Andrews University). She has long had an interest in ecology, gardening and sustainability and is fascinated by how thought can generate action, and ideas can generate positive change.
In 2014, she and her husband moved to their forever home in the country. She graduated from allotment gardening to organically managing 1/3 of an acre of land, including a mature fruit orchard,which she has turned into a productive forest garden. The yield from the garden is increasing year on year – rapidly approaching an annual weight in produce of almost 1 ton.
She has filled the rest of the garden with a polytunnel, a vegetable patch, a herb garden, a wildlife pond, woodland areas and more. Since moving to the property she has also rescued many chickens from factory farms, keeping them for their eggs, and moved much closer to self-sufficiency. She has made many strides in attracting local wildlife and increasing biodiversity on the site.
When she is not gardening, Elizabeth spends a lot of time working remotely on permaculture garden projects around the world. Amongst other things, she has designed private gardens in regions as diverse as Canada, Minnesota, Texas, the Arizona/California desert, and the Dominican Republic, commercial aquaponics schemes, food forests and community gardens in a wide range of global locations.
In addition to designing gardens, Elizabeth also works in a consultancy capacity, offering ongoing support and training for gardeners and growers around the globe. She has created booklets and aided in the design of Food Kits to help gardeners to cool and warm climates to grow their own food, for example. She is undertaking ongoing work for NGO Somalia Dryland Solutions and a number of other non governmental organisations, and works as an environmental consultant for several sustainable companies.