Mandala Gardens

Lucinda’s beautiful keyhole mandala garden (Photo: Cat Dorey)

A mandala garden is a round attractive garden which makes efficient use of space. There are paths cut into or through the centre in a way that minimises the area needed for paths while increasing growing space, and increasing the ability to reach more parts of the garden from one spot.

A ‘keyhole’ design is commonly used, especially in permaculture gardens. These have just one or two entrances and paths radiating out from the centre like petals or wheel spokes. A simple circle with paths dividing the garden into sectors is another option.

Mandala gardens are well suited to herbs and salad vegetables, but can be used for a variety of edibles including fruit trees.

These gardens are functional, but are often planted in a way that makes them interesting and especially beautiful. They usually have a central feature like a fruit tree, a herb spiral, a small pond, or a fountain.

Mandala gardens, especially keyhole designs, have lots of edges, which means you can take advantage of many microclimates with clever planting. For example, you could plant a hedge of perennials around the dryer outside edge, like rosemary, lavender, and perennial basil, that give shade to other plants inside the circle in summer and can be trimmed back to allow more sun in winter.

They are good on a flat piece of ground with full sun or part sun, and make good use of space if you have a small area to grow in.

We’ve seen some spectacular edible mandala gardens in our travels, from garden host Lucinda’s keyhole mandala in her small town house garden, to a giant one with a central rose arbour with benches at an eco-retreat in England. Your imagination is your only limit!