Movement in the Garden

Bee Better Naturally with Helen Yoest

Wind blowing, water flowing, grasses swaying, children playing. Movement brings a garden to life.

Photo by Carolyn V on Unsplash

It seems unimaginable for a garden to be still. Do you find yourself looking from the corner of your eye at something moving, or do you look toward a sound made by the moving wind? Movement engages you in the garden. It can be introduced in so many ways, be it plants, water features, or art. More than likely, your own garden already holds a number of movement makers that are just waiting to be discovered.

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

Certain trees keep their leaves throughout the winter. White oak trees will hold on to their leaves, which turn brown and dry in winter, until new spring growth pushes out the old. As the wind rises, the rustling leaves draw the eye upward. Certain shrubs also hold their leaves when dormant, such the spice bush (Lindera glauca). Their dried, spice-colored leaves provide a rattle in the wind during the wintertime.

As the water flows, it’s movement (and sound) attracts the gardener and wildlife, alike. From four-tiered fountains and recirculating ponds to a gurgling urn with barely enough flow to coat the sides, moving water will entice birds and other wildlife to sip or dip. The sound of moving water also buffers ambient noise, creating a focal point to be enjoyed most of the year. Watching fish move through the water is calming and cathartic. Fish move left, move right, and circle around. They wiggle and wag, looking for bites to eat and making sure all is well in their water world. During fish feeding times, the fish are fun to watch as they scurry for position, breaking the water as they grab little nibbles.

Grasses, with their flexibility, add movement to the garden in all seasons. Swaying in the wind, the grasses’ bending acts like an anemometer measuring for speed—the stronger the wind, the more the bend. Perennial Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ stands upright and erect until the breeze begins. Muhlenbergia capillaries colors up pink in the fall, then fades to tan for the winter months. Native switch grass, Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’, can grow four feet tall, adding nice red tones in the summer and growing darker burgundy as the fall progresses. In the winter, ‘Shenandoah’ is blond and bold, ready to bend in the slightest breeze.

One of your garden’s greatest movement makers could very well come in the form of children at play. They can bring life to a garden in a way with which little else can compare. From chasing fireflies to playing tag to climbing trees, kids delight in roaming outdoors and infuse your whole yard with motion.

Locate your favorite movement makers where they can be observed. A fountain might be seen from the front window or in your courtyard where you can sit for some quiet solitude. Think about placing nectar-rich plants near the back porch to watch the pollinators come and go. Observing a hummingbird pause in mid-air before deciding which flower to visit next will delight you. You’ll be grateful to see carefully placed grasses along the driveway, bending hello to welcome you home.

Watching your world in motion will add another level of joy and fascination. If none of these ideas suit you, just add a whirligig at the front door, and you will be ready to witness wind in motion.


Waving flags, whirligigs, and wagging dogs—all are great ways to add movement to your garden. Carry your style with these movement makers. From flying the American flag to casually hanging a seasonal flag near the mailbox, watching movement in the garden brings your mind to attention. Movement will engage you. Surprise yourself with placing movement makers in an area of the garden to catch the corner of your eye. Chimes hanging from a tree or mirrored ornaments to sparkle in the wind as the sun’s rays catch its reflection—you should bring your own style to the garden with what moves you.

For my garden, I’ve added various kinds of movement, some that are constant but mostly those that are fleating. The water in the fountain flows as a constant, with movement of the water from one teir to the next. It’s predicitable and soothing. A movement of a butterfly passing is fleating. The kids add fleating movements—as they run and play and kick a dozen balls. The movement of the wind never stops intriguing me. My most memerable movement makers happens most days when, seemingly out of nowhere, Earth’s breath moves leaves, sways grasses, pushes chimes to make melodic garden sounds.

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Pollinator-friendly, sustainable, good design

Raleigh, NC

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