How to Create a Sacred Grove in a Garden

Here's what to consider when creating magical spaces in your garden.

Portrait of young Asian woman having a walk in the park, enjoying the warmth of sunlight on a beautiful Autumn day outdoors and breathing fresh air with eyes closed. Relaxing in the nature under maple trees
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Dappled light filtering through the verdant leaves of trees, their trunks like pillars. The ground soft and springy underfoot, and the sound softened to a gentle hush by the surrounding foliage, lush and green. A peacefulness descends.

Those who spend time in woodlands or forests or other special natural environments will surely recognize the feeling that you have stumbled upon a sacred grove—a "thin place," where there is a sense that we are on the fringe, almost between worlds.

In these special places, whether we are of a particular religion or none, time slows and we feel a sense of the spiritual, of something bigger, beyond ourselves. Whether we believe that we are experiencing a sense of a deity, communing with nature's spirit, or simply feeling a strong sense of the natural world around us and its interconnections, the feeling can take us up and out of our daily concerns.

The concept of a sacred grove is one that stretches far back in time, and it is a feature of a number of different cultural traditions and religious groups throughout history. Central to all those different cultures and belief systems is a deep respect and reverence for the natural world.

In a sacred grove, the core idea is that we can feel that deep and profound sense of closeness with the natural world—finding our own layers of meaning and belonging in that world. Some might say, we are looking for a sense of the numinous—a spiritual feeling, of awe and wonderment, that draws us beyond ourselves.

Whatever we seek and whatever we may personally find in such a setting, creating a sacred grove in our very own garden can bring us closer to a life where we can keep nature front and center in our lives. Perhaps it can also help us to find that sense of balance and calm for which we all strive in the modern world.

Creating a Sacred Grove

When we wish to create a sacred grove in a garden, we should:

  • Select native species;
  • Layer planting;
  • Think about sunlight and shade;
  • Consider connections;
  • And leave space for nature.

Choose Native Species

Creating a sacred grove means finding trees and other species that feel truly at home in our environment and specifically where we live. Each element in such a planting scheme should feel as though it truly belongs.

Layer Planting

Creating a grove amid trees that truly feels special is not just about selecting and planting the trees. For that special, secret, and magical feel, you need to also consider the understory planting, creating layers for a lush, dense look and feel. You need not only trees but also shrubs, herbaceous plants, ground cover plants, and climbers.

You need to create a layered ecosystem that mimics the function of natural woodland or forest—whether it is indeed like a natural woodland or forest in your area, or is part of a food forest system, with plants chosen carefully to meet our own needs as well as the needs of the system as a whole.

Think About Sunlight and Shade

Begin with the trees and their careful placement to create just the right amount of sunlight and shade to create a lush density to the vegetation while creating a comfortable temperature and light levels. An environment comfortable for humans can help us feel connected and at peace.

Consider Connections

What can elevate our planting and create that sense that we are in the presence of something bigger, something greater, something beyond? I believe that we can find that sense through the interconnectedness of all things.

By creating a functioning ecosystem in our garden, rather than just planting with no reference to how elements and plants combine, we can feel a sense of the whole.

Leave Space for Nature

While, when creating a sacred grove, we may be tempted to plant, tend, and control, we can only really get that sense of magic and mystery when we step back and leave some space for nature to do its thing—without too much intervention from us, letting nature do what nature does best.