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Connecting to Nature – Home Tea Gardens

Connecting to Nature – Home Tea Gardens

By Ashleigh Smith, True Leaf Market
Photographs courtesy of True Leaf Market

Tea has long played an impactful role in cultures around the world. From healing ailments to a refreshing social beverage, tea is known for a variety of uses and purposes. When it comes to tea gardens, the Japanese style is the most well-known, as these gardens have been grown for centuries. The Japanese tea garden was originally designed as part of the sacred tea ceremony that takes place in Buddhist temples. Since the 16th century, they have become a lot more common, with integrations into gardens viewed from buildings, boats, or near small bodies of water.

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Like many garden styles, the tea garden is growing in popularity among everyday workers rather than a style reserved for royalty and religious places. A big reason for the continued popularity of the tea garden is its connection between the natural landscape and the philosophical ideas of the tea ceremony to promote well-being, mindfulness and harmony. Traditional Japanese tea gardens have several trademark features, including an outer and inner garden space, a simple bamboo fence dividing these gardens, a water basin or waterfall for washing up before teatime, stepping-stone paths, and plant life that fits with the natural surroundings.

The outer garden is generally more formal, open and tightly manicured. This space can be associated with the open, public front yards of the common home. The inner garden develops more of a natural appearance with naturally shaped shrubs, deciduous plants, and is covered by a tree canopy. This is where small gatherings or meetings take place to enjoy a cup of tea. If a tree canopy is difficult to achieve where you live, try utilizing a structure like an arbor or pergola along with vertical herb planters and climbing plants. This space should feel natural and relaxing as it creates an environment for balance and wellness. The feeling and ideas of the Japanese tea garden can further be adapted into the traditional home garden by using the same design elements of stones, lanterns, and water features. For the inner garden space, consider appointing a part of your home garden for enjoying a cup of tea or coffee in solitude or the comfort of friends.

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When it comes to the plants of the traditional Japanese tea garden you can expect to see more formally maintained evergreen shrubs in the outer space. Once you transition into the inner garden, more natural and informal plants should be included. This is where you can take comfort in the loose and free-flowing patterns of nature. Sit back and enjoy the rustling of leaves, changing colors throughout the season, and the cooling breeze of air as it filters through your garden. Fill this space with the plants that bring you joy. Adding edible plants throughout the garden further extends the usefulness of your space and creates a connection to the earth beneath your feet.

Be sure to include an assortment of tea herbs for brewing your own high-quality tea. Popular tea herbs are filled with medicinal and culinary benefits. When herbs are ingested through drinks and cooking, they enable access to their unique antioxidants, nutrients, and oils to help support the immune system, cleanse the body of toxins, and regulate the many systems within the body.

When it comes to using the herbs in your garden, you may find yourself with questions about how to make fresh tea. Two common methods can be used depending on whether you want to make a large or small batch. First, you will want to start with drying your freshly harvested herbs. Start by using a dehydrator or oven. They can be hung in a dark place, but you may run into problems with mold or mildew with this method.

Once the herbs are dry, store them in air-tight containers in a cool, dark place. When individual herbs are stored in separate containers, you can continue to experiment with different combinations. To make an individual cup of tea you will want to make your own dry herb tea bags. Add your preferred herb or herb blend and steep in hot water for 3-15 minutes depending on your preferred strength.

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For a large batch consider using a Stainless Steel Tea Filter & Lid. Reusable tea filters allow you to brew an entire quart or half-gallon jar of tea at a time. Simply add your favorite dry herbs to the filter and drop them into a jar full of water. Allow the filter to steep, infusing the water with fresh flavor. Once it reaches your preferred strength, remove the filter and drink at your leisure from day to day.

Growing a tea garden does not have to be difficult. Whether you are turning your patio into a productive and useful garden, or transforming an outdoor space into a healing oasis, all you need are a few plants and some guiding principles. When it comes to tea gardens, the Japanese have set the precedent with their escape from the structured and formal world to the relaxing and healing beauty of nature.

Every element of the Japanese tea garden speaks to the influence nature has on our lives. From the stepping stones and cleansing water to the native plant selections, the Japanese tea garden connects its visitors to the ground from which it springs. If you find yourself with little space, opt to utilize small-scale items like a tray of pebbles or hanging planters to create the harmonious environment you deserve. Learn more: www.trueleafmarket.com.

Ashleigh Smith is the Managing Editor at True Leaf Market with a bachelor's degree in Horticulture from Brigham Young University - Idaho. True Leaf Market is a nationally certified organic, non-GMO seed and horticultural company based in Salt Lake City, Utah. The True Leaf Market staff specializes in supplying a large selection of conventional, heirloom, and organic seeds to home gardeners everywhere. Learn more about our seeds, supplies, and other growing ideas: www.trueleafmarket.com.


All articles are copyrighted and remain the property of the author.

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