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Design dreamy delight with this hammock garden.

| June/July 2006

  • What could be better than retiring to a hammock after a day of garden chores? To learn what plants were used in this design, click on the Image Gallery above, then click "next."
    Gayle Ford
  • To see this plan enlarged, click on the image.
    Gayle Ford

Wouldn’t it be lovely, after an afternoon of vigorous garden chores, to slip away to a special corner of the garden, stretch out in the hammock and relax or snooze a bit? This shady retreat can be even more enticing when surrounded by fragrant plants, soft textures and calm, peaceful, white-flowering plants. Gardens and hammocks were made for each other, and with a little planning, your back yard can become a relaxing retreat.

An Idyllic Site

The first necessity of a hammock garden is a mature shade tree in the back or side yard. Situate a freestanding hammock in the deepest shade of that tree, design a path that leads to it, and plant ferns to engulf the area around the hammock and suggest a soft nest in the dappled light. White flowers are excellent to dot the ground leading to the hammock because they show up cleanly against the leafy mulch on the surface.

Anyone who plants a hammock garden must tailor it to the site they have available, because plant possibilities are determined largely by the tree and the amount of shade it casts, as well as other factors, such as climate and soil type. Use the list of plants here as a suggestion or guideline, but assess the location you have, particularly the amount of sunlight it receives, and use plants that you know grow well in your area.

Pick Peaceful Plants

Try placing larger white-blooming shrubs, such as fragrant rose, gardenia and mock orange at the edges of the tree canopy, where they can receive more sunlight and have space for roots. If your yard is surrounded by a privacy fence, you can tuck your garden into the corner so the fence and shrubs around the outside envelope the space, holding in the delicate fragrances and contributing to the feel of a woodland nesting spot or hideaway. You could even plant sweet autumn clematis to climb the fence for a vertical element visible from the hammock, a green screen that flowers explosively in the fall.

If you design this white-flowering garden for napping, several plants would be a perfect fit: The little ray flowers of German chamomile with their gentle apple scent can calm your nerves; chamomile tea is used widely as a mild sleep aid. Plant them toward the edges or in pots, as they need good sun exposure to bloom well.

Sweet woodruff has been used since the Middle Ages to flavor white wine used to calm nerves and bring on sleep. With its green whorls of fragrant leaves and little white springtime flowers, it is a good plant for the deep shade and humus-y soil at the base of a tree.

1/17/2013 3:45:49 PM

If you're interested in this them, check our 'Gardening from a Hammock,' a new garden book on low-maintenance plants. It highlights the different styles of gardens by a diverse mix of garden experts, revea;s their gardem "secrets" and talks about ways to protect the environment while having a lovely, all-season garden. See more at

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