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Who uses it: Christine St. Jean and husband Tim Heckel share this space with neighbors and friends when they entertain.
What happens here: This garden is used for meditation and personal relaxation. “We are also birders and are proud to say it’s a certified backyard habitat through the National Wildlife Federation,” St. Jean says.
How to get there: “This is in our backyard,” St. Jean says. They can get there from their deck or by walking from the front yard through the side yard.
What makes it a retreat: Lush, dynamic seasonal plantings that protect wildlife and provide Heckel and St. Jean with a relaxing and meditative environment.
Who uses it: Dawn Y, her husband and their three cats, as well as friends and family.
What happens here: It’s a garden retreat where they enjoy everything from morning coffee to a glass of wine in the evening, and everything in between.
How to get there: This garden is steps from their back door.
What makes it a retreat: The lush plantings envelop visitors and wash away daily stresses.
Who uses it: “I turned boring pastureland into wildflower meadows for the wildlife to use as their retreat,” homeowner Oni77 says.
What happens here: “This space is used as my way of giving back to nature.”
How to get there: The wildflower meadows border a long driveway leading to the homeowner’s small farm.
What makes it a retreat: Seeing the increase in visiting wildlife.
Location: South Texas
Who uses it: Texasboykin hangs out with her 10 dogs and entertains clients here.
What happens here: The homeowner built the patio for entertaining, relaxing, meeting with clients and containing her dogs if needed.
How to get there: Walk from a deck off the kitchen down some stairs to a lower patio.
What makes it a retreat: The stacked-stone raised bed the homeowner built is a favorite feature.
Who uses it: “My husband and I are retired, so we use it the most. But we have two married daughters and six grandchildren who love being out there. We also entertain friends and extended family in our primitive pergola,” homeowner Julie Doerfler says.
What happens here: A vegetable garden, small flower garden and grapevines surround the pergola they like to relax under.
How to get there: “There is actually a ‘secret path’ through the woods from the house that the grandchildren use, but you can also get there by walking down the driveway and over the lawn to the entrance,” Doerfler says.
What makes it a retreat: The grapevines were the first thing they planted in this area, hoping that their grandchildren could pick and eat the grapes. “It is a treat for all of them when the grapes ripen,” Doerfler says. “So, for sentimental reasons, I would have to say the ‘vineyard.’”
Who uses it: “My client and her friends,” Erin Lau says.
What happens here: The client unwinds and gathers with friends around the gas fire pit. It’s also a place where the homeowner likes to quietly read and get out of the late-afternoon sun.
How to get there: Walk out the backyard deck and across the patio to the southwest edge of the garden.
What makes it a retreat: “This is the ultimate garden retreat because it has the perfect proportions,” Lau says. “It feels like a place you can do whatever you want in, whether it is to sleep, socialize, read or think. That feeling comes from a variety of features — privacy, partial shade and lush vegetation all converging in a space that is just the right scale.”
Who uses it: “My family enjoys our garden retreat. I try to involve my 10-year-old granddaughter as much as possible, hoping she will one day have a passion for gardening,” Patricia Kinsman says.
What happens here: “The space is used as a place to spend time enjoying the beautiful harbor and views of Mount Rainier,” Kinsman says.
How to get there: This garden runs along the side of the house.
What makes it a retreat: “The views are definitely the main feature in my garden,” Kinsman says, and the flowers frame that view.
Who uses it: Georgiann Rose and her husband.
What happens here: The homeowners nap and relax, or they cool off after a dip in the hot tub and look at the stars.
How to get there: This bed sits in a 5-acre backyard.
What makes it a retreat: An outdoor bed is a bit unexpected.
Who uses it: Nancy Akeroyd and her husband.
What happens here: This is an evening refuge.
How to get there: It’s the front porch.
What makes it a retreat: Living in harmony with nature and the surrounding environment. Akeroyd, who writes children’s books, often uses the creatures that visit their garden in her stories. “If I did not know better, I would swear this is our heaven,” she says.
Who uses it: The Junk Lady’s Daughter.
What happens here: The homeowner originally planted these gardens to unwind in after a stressful day at work. Now retired, she likes to visit them every day in summer to appreciate the flowers and wildlife.
How to get there: This garden is set into a hillside in the homeowner’s side yard.
What makes it a retreat: Working in the garden and seeing the flowers as they change through the seasons bring peace and mindfulness to the homeowner.
Who uses it: Ruth Butt and her family and friends.
What happens here: Relaxing, drinking cocktails, hosting parties.
How to get there: Walk straight out the back door onto a back patio.
What makes it a retreat: “The fully functional 12-seat bar with pond and gardens makes it paradise,” Butt says.
Who uses it: “Me, family, friends, gardeners in my local gardening group, neighbors who are curious — and admit visiting when I’m not home, which is fine with me,” Karen Guy says.
What happens here: Guy and her family use it for dining, growing vegetables and other gardening activities. “I’ve hosted a local gardening group and been on a garden tour twice,” Guy says.
How to get there: You can get to this garden through the house or from around the side of the house, over a little blue bridge.
What makes it a retreat: A water feature that attracts wildlife. “I could sit under the patio umbrella and listen to the bubbling water and birdsong all day,” she says.
Who uses it: Jennifer Jackson and her family and friends.
What happens here: Relaxing and entertaining. “It’s a good place to get away from the house and read,” Jackson says. It’s also a destination where friends can gather away from the house.
How to get there: Walk up some stone steps in the backyard or enter through a freestanding garage.
What makes it a retreat: “It really feels like a separate outdoor room,” Jackson says. It’s a destination that feels private and removed from the house.
Who uses it: Ann Baty and her husband.
What happens here: A series of decks surrounds a waterfall the couple built. “Each deck is a living space for eating or sitting in sun or shade, and each has a different view of the waterfall,” Baty says.
How to get there: French doors off the living room extend to a boardwalk and cedar decks that overlook the waterfall.
What makes it a retreat: “It is turning into the ultimate garden retreat, because it offers privacy and ever-changing growth and color with the seasons. We find ourselves walking around as much as we sit,” Baty says.
Who uses it: Heidi Johnson’s client and guests.
What happens here: “The space is used as a quiet retreat for contemplation, reading [and] peaceful visits with family and friends,” Johnson says.
How to get there: “This is a secret garden at the side of the house. It is not visible from the house, deck or lawn,” Johnson says. “When the homeowner crosses the deck or the lawn, a flagstone pathway becomes visible.” A small cafe table waits at the end of the path.
What makes it a retreat: “The space provides nature’s entertainment. When she is craving quiet time, the homeowner will have the pleasure of engaging all of her senses,” Johnson says. Sounds, scents, sights and textures enhance the space year-round.
Who uses it: Arthur and April Samuelsen.
What happens here: “We use the pond area as a place to unwind at the end of the day as well as a gathering spot when we entertain,” April says. “I especially like to serve my strawberry soup by the pond before I have lunch on the porch with friends.”
How to get there: “To reach our beautiful pond, we have a meandering large stone path. I like to call it ‘the path to bliss,’” April says.
What makes it a retreat: The couple enjoy the tropical plantings and the goldfish swimming in the pond, but their favorite feature is the sound of the waterfall. “It gives the garden a life that only moving water can do,” April says.
Who uses it: Maya Ardel-Maik and her family and friends.
What happens here: The homeowners like to relax and also host family and friends.
How to get there: It sits behind a wrought iron gate in Ardel-Maik’s personal garden.
What makes it a retreat: Sitting on the patio, she is surrounded by flowering trees and shrubs and a large lawn, and can enjoy the breeze.
Who uses it: It’s mostly for Kathy Sturr’s private use, but garden clubs and artists also tour it. Birds, bees and butterflies use it most, she says.
What happens here: It’s a relaxing spot where Sturr can retreat from the busyness of the village.
How to get there: It’s hidden behind a detached garage.
What makes it a retreat: The potager provides food and is bursting with nature. Additionally, the homeowner says, it’s such a surprise to discover the garden around the corner of the garage.
Location: Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
Who uses it: Jghersh and her husband like to use this back garden, as does her 88-year-old mother when she visits.
What happens here: It’s a tranquil garden spot for sitting and enjoying the space or chatting with a friend.
How to get there: A flagstone and Irish moss path winds through the garden and ends at a garden bench underneath a Japanese maple tree.
What makes it a retreat: The bench underneath the Japanese maple is a nice spot for watching the birds enjoy the birdbath and admiring the beauty of the flower garden throughout the seasons.
Who uses it: Kim Nadel and her assistant use this patio off her home and office space during the week. On weeknights or weekends, Nadel entertains friends.
What happens here: “It is used as a meditation area and a virtual second office,” Nadel says.
How to get there: French doors and folding doors from the dining and living areas lead to the patio.
What makes it a retreat: “The bamboo and palm trees bring birds and privacy,” Nadel says. “The Bali bed is dreamy, and the hybrid saline pool-hot tub is so relaxing and just serene to look at.”
Who uses it: Lida Perfetto, her husband and other family.
What happens here: It’s a gathering place. The family members like to relax, talk and drink tea or wine together.
How to get there: A flagstone and paver walk leads to the garden.
What makes it a retreat: “It is private. No one can see into the space from outside,” Perfetto says.
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