My Contemplative/Zen Space – A Garden Designers Round Table Post

| March 27, 2012 | 17 Comments


I guess we should show you some gardens,

That would be quite logical!

Most gardens in fact could have some contemplative

or ‘zen-ly’ special element about them for someone or other.

Our labyrinth for Weston Hospice would certainly do:

But how do we garden designers do this thing?

This creative business?

By that I mean how do we design at all? Let alone make something that’s peaceful.

Because it is quite demanding – crazy in fact!

Creativity must be fed. To do it effectively you must deluge yourself with images, ideas and facts. Daily, weekly, monthly.

And from this kind of three dimensional pin board in your mind you produce for the current client their dream landscape concept.

As tho you were them in fact! The landscape they did or didn’t know they wanted.


To achieve it successfully I think the extraction from the mental pin board requires some zen space for us. Almost a clean sheet.

I suppose it could be a garden, but its not.

Here is my zen space:

What follows may be too much information. In which case I apologize. But there is no other way to describe how it works!

This is what my shower faces

I am not sure how or why it started. I genuinely can’t remember the first jar, bottle or glass. Perhaps it was something to do with Bristol Blue Glass.  But after a while I was given old poison bottles or eye glasses. Maybe the poison bottles were a hint!

‘You collect blue glass. Here’s another piece!’

I also used to walk a lot on the welsh coast and there was a shop which sold it where I parked my car.

Long walks often ended with lashing out the princely sum of 2 quid on a glass bottle.

The head was a bit of a one-off. The car practically bounced to a stop when I saw that staring out of a junk shop window. I think actually that was a bit of a non sequitur.

Because I haven’t bought any blue glass for years. But its legacy lives on.

I start my day thus:

In these water straightened times we are beginning to hear the concept of ‘the short shower’. 4 minutes I think it is.

Well,  I’m sure not doing any less!

Alternative medicine suggests that the light through blue glass is healing and calming.

So I spend at least that gazing rather blankly.

The cream washed house opposite the window faces due south.

And sometimes the light through the glass fairly sings.

Periodically I have tried to foto it, but cameras don’t do blue well.

Sometimes there is a combination of shape or tone that I find satisfying. But there is no rhyme, reason or perpetuity for the arrangement and order.

As often as I can force myself to hoover it, the top shelf is cleared and the ones from the shelves below get moved up whilst cleaning. An act of mindless therapy in itself!

A bit like some gardening activities.


Robert Webber

The Hegarty Webber Partnership

Now please do check out what our elite garden design colleagues from across the pond have to say about contemplative and zen spaces by clicking on the links below:

Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN

Jenny Peterson : J Petersen Garden Design : Austin, TX

Genevieve Schmidt : North Coast Gardening : Arcata, CA

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  1. Priscilla Brennan says:

    Just love it. I give myself one a day- articles such as this to “move” me into design . Time off or is it on? Thank you for the visual and mental inspiration which Blue glass gives. PS I grew up with a Mom and grandmother that collected Turquoise glass.

  2. Love those glass bottles, Robert! The blue color is both striking and calming at the same time. What a wonderful way to start your day.

  3. Robert says:

    Hi Priscilla,
    Thanks so much for your comment.
    Yes design needs more than just the discipline you practice it in.
    All those peripheral influences are just so important.
    And can offer just the stimulus you need when you are blocked!

  4. Robert says:

    Hi Jenny,
    Yes that is an intriguing point.
    I think it is the basic colour which soothes, but its intensity can also stimulate.
    How clever of you to see that!
    Thanks and Best

  5. Robert: this is a fantastic exercise: looking through blue glass as you begin each day with so many shapes to stimulate you. You are a genius!

  6. Love this little glimpse into how you recharge in your own personal zen space.(or is that zen-ly space?) Thanks for sharing!

  7. Genevieve says:

    Just goes to show that an expression of our personality is the most soothing statement of all. I love your blue glass and covet the head! the continuity of using all the same color makes it work, while the shapes and striking nature of the collection keep it interesting. Nice!

  8. Robert says:

    Hi Douglas,
    I am not sure I would go that far. You are very kind! You are entirely right though about the stimulus which shape and indeed colour offer. I think non arty people don’t get that and in the vicissitudes of life just shape and colour, beauty I guess, can be a huge comfort. Thanks so much for your comment!

  9. Robert says:

    Hi Susan,
    Sometimes good to show ourselves as people!
    Thanks so much for your comment.

  10. Robert says:

    Hi Gen,
    Yeah the importance of self expression.
    If you ever come to Uk you can have the head and take it right back in hand luggage! It gives me the creeps!
    Of course you have picked up on the way that it works in design terms: continuity and yet variety.
    Thanks so much for your comment.

  11. Thomas says:

    Fascinating post. I blissed out looking at your blue arrangment.

  12. Robert says:

    Hi Thomas!
    Unfortunately I can claim no glory for the arrangement because they go back on the shelves in such a random manner.
    But maybe that is an arrangement style in itself.
    A bit like matrix planting!
    But in retrospect I do usually perceive some combination of shapes there which I find very pleasing!
    Thanks so much for your comment.
    Great to have you on board the GDRT ship by the way!

  13. Robert, I had to laugh when I read this post, as I, too, get some of my best ideas while in the shower! Unfortunately, I don’t have your beautiful blue light to enjoy, and it is enchanting. I completely agree with your premiss about designers needing to recharge – I love your take on the topic!

  14. Robert says:

    Hi Jocelyn,
    Yes I know what you mean.
    But I think good ideas can happen anywhere, whereas the glass helps me at least aim for blank!
    Thanks so much for your comment.

  15. Robert! I absolutely love this post! I’ve returned from a very hectic few weeks in the garden world and am just now catching up on all I have to do. Reading this post, and seeing these beautiful images of your blue glass collection, instantly had a calming result for my bee-hive mind!! I, too, collect old glass bottles but in various colors. Your streamlined collection of ‘blue’ is truly stunning. A beautiful and unconventional way to describe how to begin to clear one’s head, calm the brain, and create a contemplative space.

  16. Robert says:

    Hi Rebecca!
    Re the instant calming I had exactly the same effect from Douglas’s post too. Isn’t that odd?
    Re your collection of different colours, I didn’t admit in my post to having a smaller collection of green glass in the bathroom across the other side of the house.
    That has the opposite effect of being very enlivening.
    And I am afraid that downstairs in the living room which is red, I do have an even smaller amount of red glass!
    Oh dear!
    I am a bit of a collector. Or was. I don’t really have the time now.
    Thanks so much for your comment.

  17. […] Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK […]