How to Create a Witch’s Garden – Beginner Gardening Tips for Witches
These tips on how to create a witch’s garden come from the heart, and from personal practice, but they’re not written in stone. Take what resonates and discard the rest!
My friend the writer Mar Stratford asked me for tips on creating a witch’s garden. It was such a lovely question, I thought I’d share my practice here!
A garden, or any space in your kingdom where there is a hint of green, is a haven. It’s a safe space for you. It’s a laboratory. And, importantly, it’s not entirely yours. You came from stars and ideas, and you’ll return to dust. A witch’s garden – or any garden – is a green space you’re borrowing for a while, as a caretaker. A witch knows about responsibility and duty of care to the universe, and the way I see it, your role as a witch is to create a garden that reflects your ideals of natural beauty, acts as a safe space for you and wildlife, and is a space filled with the power of the invisible.
Shrines and guardians
A witch’s garden can be as open or as subtle as you wish when it comes to statues, ornaments, shrines and similar.
A witch’s garden need not only be filled with plants. It can also be filled with art. Meaningful art. The kind of art that you can take away with you to your next home (after all, many witches may be renting, rather than living in some nominal forever home).
Statues – Acquire symbolic statues for garden guardians or energies you wish to attract to your witch’s garden (think dragons, lions, fairies made of stone)
Garden art – Consider garden art that makes use of bare walls but, again, attracts certain energies (perhaps a bronze butterfly or bee on the wall as a sign that you welcome both pollinators and personal transformation)
Shrines – Build a weatherproof shrine in a corner of your garden – it can be as simple as a pile of stones with something important hidden beneath them
Mirrors – Be careful with garden mirrors! I have a beautiful outdoor mirror in my garden. Mirrors are some of the most magical surfaces, to my mind. However, I learned to my cost that, in the hot season, mirrors can create enough reflected heat and light to actually burn a nearby plant. I had to cover my mirror with a black cloth last summer, although I am training my clematis climber to cover its secrets and its awesome/terrifying burning power. I don’t know what the neighbours thought of the black cloth covering my mirror. It perhaps looked a bit more witchy than it intended to. Have filed under ‘awkward’.
Offerings – If you have a garden guardian, spirit, deity or avatar, it’s nice to feed or venerate it. Think of ways to leave regular offerings that don’t adversely impact on the garden’s wildlife residents. For example, you can leave a shallow dish in front of your shrine, and feed it with magically charged water now and then. Nice for the shrine, and nice for birds, too. The shallowness of the dish will ensure that animals of all kinds can sip without fear of drowning.
A witch’s garden nods towards eternity
Human gardening trends come and go. They’re fads. They might be really cute, and if they resonate with you, go for it! However, not all human gardening trends are right for the ecosystem as a whole.
Here are just some human gardening trends that, I’ll have to admit, I’m not really down with:
- Paving over front gardens to make room for multiple cars
- Artificial lawns
- Plastic outdoor trees (sure, they last forever, and I actually do like ‘synthetic botanicals’ in the home, but outside? Where you can grow something real?)
- Super-exotic plants-du-jour that the local wildlife can’t eat or nest in, or might even find poisonous (have a few odd plants that you love just because they bring you pleasure, but try to offset that with native plants too)
- Turning your garden into just another room in your house (we all crave extra space, but even a garden with the scrappiest lawn and the worst weeds is already more witchy and filled with nature magic than just another room in the house could ever be!)
A witch’s garden benefits from a caretaker (that’s you) who understands the fine balance between a personal aesthetic and creating something eternal. By ‘eternal’, I mean a space that will keep working to benefit the ecosystem long after you leave the area, lose the ability to maintain your garden, or get bored. No judgement here. Just an appreciation that intentions, desires and circumstances can change over time.
A witch’s garden takes care of wildlife
Witch familiars are a staple of traditional witch lore. Slugs and toads and bats and rats, oh my. Not all witches are required to bond with animals, but respecting animals is a good way for even the most solo witch to actively acknowledge they are part of everything, dancers in a merry universal dance. The universe will struggle to talk to you if you shut the door on 90% of it. A witch keeps their door ajar.
So let’s talk about wildlife in a witch’s garden. You may not like slugs and creepy crawlies, and that’s totally okay! They don’t have to be your friends! But a witch’s garden will ideally have at least some areas that provide a haven for wildlife.
I must confess, when I sit at my little rickety wooden table and spot the bees and butterflies and magpies, I’m in love. In love with the world. Slowly but surely, I am helping my little spot of land become a place where non-human inhabitants feel safe. I am helping to bring the wild into my home. Ah, sanctuary.
Attract wildlife to your witch’s garden with bug hotels and creature features
Remember: the greater the diversity of wildlife in your witchy garden, the better that ecosystem will work.
Bug hotels, log piles and stone piles can all create safe spaces for belly wrigglers and six-legged ones to make their home. Bees, bugs, crawlers – they all have their purpose. They pollinate the flowers or aerate the soil and help to make it rich. Or they provide food for other, bigger forms of wildlife like birds that will also be drawn to your witchy garden space.
You can also explore including structures like bat boxes, bird houses and hedgehog houses, depending on which animals reside in your climate.
You can buy plenty of pretty, ready-made wildlife homes for your witch’s garden. But you don’t have to spend money. A smashed up clay pot in a corner of the garden creates fantastic shelter for all kinds of wonderful creatures.
Disclaimer: I’ve had a hedgehog house for two years, and it’s never had anything live in it – not even a rat. But my friend Cath had a hedgehog give birth and raise little hogs in her little hedgehog house, so it can happen. Even if your wildlife homes don’t bring in lots of residents, they’re still a success because they’re sending a clear symbolic signal to the land that, in your home, nature is welcome.
Native plants for native creatures
Remember how I mentioned that human trend of getting in the latest exotic plant, just because it’s cool? I live in a temperate climate. Sure, climate change means we’re heading for extreme weather with periods of intense heat and drought. However, I’m still not going to plant an Australian bottlebrush shrub, even though they’re the latest must-have item in local garden centres. I get that they look awesome and I wouldn’t have to water them in times of drought. But I’m not sure how they’d cope with winter frosts. And, more importantly, the local wildlife may not have any use for a bottlebrush plant. Can they nest and shelter in it? Can they eat it and get any nutrition from it? Is it poisonous to them? I don’t know the answers.
I’ve already got some plants in my garden that are not super-useful to local wildlife (e.g. a fig tree) so I have to think about getting the balance right. Some plants for me, but mostly plants for the local animal kingdom.
Tips for planting native plants in a witch’s garden:
- Research local plants that provide housing and shelter for local wildlife
- Consider native plants that provide berries – a fantastic source of nutrition for local wildlife
- If you have space, think about native shrubs. They are hardy, wildlife-friendly and can grow big and strong in your garden with very little work from you
- Aim to avoid plants that are poisonous to creatures (e.g. lilies are poisonous to cats)
Choosing plants that are bee and butterfly friendly for your witch’s garden
Bees and butterflies are pollinators. That means they help pollen move around, fertilizing a plant so that it can make fruits or seeds. Only fertilized plants can reproduce, so pollinators like bees and butterflies are truly essential in most climes.
In addition, aren’t bees and butterflies the most magical things? Butterflies are a living embodiment of the art of transformation. Beautiful, fluttering things. And bees are the humming mind in the sky, the keepers of secrets, a peaceful army of girls.
My key bee-friendly and butterfly-friendly plants are a massive swathe of lavender that takes over the garden every summer and some honeysuckle. The lavender gets covered in honeybees, bumblebees, even carpenter bees, cabbage white butterflies, ‘common’ but beautiful brown butterflies I don’t know the name of… it’s a wild powdery grey-lilac kingdom. Come harvest time, I end up with about three large armfuls of lavender I have to figure out what to do with. It’s a nice problem to have.
Introducing light and shade to your witch’s garden – the Seelie and Unseelie court
The light and dark fairy kingdoms each need their court. In your garden, there’s likely to be one area that gets most of the sun and one area that’s shadier. Plant and dress your garden accordingly. Put plants that love the light in the light. Put plants that love the dark in the dark.
As a result, one side of my garden is so full of cottage flowers and the like that come summer it’s so covered in blooms it looks frankly drunk. The other side of my garden is all dark sturdy evergreens, ferns and shadows and woodland bluebells. Mushrooms sprout there by chance (and I’m quite fond of my bronze ornamental mushrooms too). A friend described this as the ‘seelie and unseelie court’, and I just love that. Now I’ve seen it, I can’t unsee it!
Having different light and shade aspects to your garden can help you if you choose to do any workings, ritual or magical preparation there. You can explore generous growth magic in the seelie court, and shadow working or night-flavoured activities in the unseelie court.
Herbs for a witch’s garden
Herbs are one of the first things you think of when you consider a witch’s garden. That’s because witchy gardens are, at their heart, functional. There is, of course, kitchen witchcraft. Magical cooking aside, witches need ingredients and it’s easier to grow than to scavenge. And nature magic activates all the senses – the sight of a profusion of growing things, the tactile feel of ferns and profuse petals, the taste of sweet and bitter herbs, the scent of your herb garden as you brush past it and thyme and lavender get on your skin. A witch’s garden is sensuous, even if in winter the bare branches twist and gnarl like witch’s fingers.
List of useful herbs for a witch’s garden:
- Thyme (protection against bad dreams and nightmares, courage, rest, purification, inner balance, spiritual growth)
- Sage (wisdom)
- Rosemary (love)
- Mint (spiritual growth, wealth, psychic energy, protection, healing, journeys)
- Garlic (inner strength, family bonds, healing, protection)
- Lavender (purification, protection, healing, cleansing, home blessings)
- Basil (negative energy ward, prosperity, divination)
- Chives (protection)
- Lemon verbena (purification, protection, love)
- Bay tree/bush (protection, psychic energy, divination, success magic)
- Vervain (consecration, creativity, inner balance, purification, protection)
… the list goes on!
These herbs are just a few of the classics used in spells and ritual. If you want to grow your own witchy herbs, find out what grows well in both your geographical terrain and your own patch of land. Remember that mint spreads like wildfire – you might want to keep it in a big pot unless you want a garden of mint. Which is, you know, perfectly okay. You can grow herbs inside on a kitchen windowsill too.
You might also have a yearning to grow classically witchy items like foxglove, belladonna, woad and the like. Visit the Chelsea Physic Garden in London and you’ll find a whole bunch of them… deadly nightshade, datura, henbane and even mandrake. Take care, take care, dear heart… beware. Many ‘witch’ plants along these lines are poisonous. They’re toxins. A garden that grows such things is no friend to small creatures like dogs or cats. Or, you know, children.
Other functional edibles might include a miniature apple tree, vegetables and the like. I personally don’t grow vegetables because I’d rather grow butterflies. The caterpillars eat any vegetables I’ve ever tried to grow. I never really got the hang of putting up netting or researching companion planting without pesticides, so I chose butterflies instead of veggies! Every witch makes their choices. Enjoy yours.
Garden rituals for witches
There are so many possibilities for magical work in the garden. I’m always open to suggestions, but I’ll name a few:
- Dress a tree in your garden every May Day.
- Attend the annual Mookychick May Day Crowning Ritual with a crown using plants from your garden.
- Create an outdoor meditation sanctuary.
- These Samhain rituals at Halloween lend themselves well to the garden.
And, of course, there’s whatever you come up with.
How to create a witch’s garden? Add creativity, environmental responsibility, individuality and love.
Your garden, outdoor space or windowsill is your own domain. Your vision of a witch’s garden might be very different to mine, and no less magical.