Owning a holiday home is all about having the perfect place to de-stress, recharge your batteries, and forget about the pressures of everyday life. So, it’s important to make your holiday haven as healthy and relaxing a place as possible. Having the right plants around can play a significant role in helping to create a feel-good environment.
There’s lots of evidence that surrounding yourself with floral beauty and fragrance can positively enhance wellbeing by lowering anxiety levels, boosting mood and improving focus and memory. Nurturing and caring for plants is excellent therapy as well.
But what if you’re not a keen gardener or botany buff? It’s hard to know where to start and which species to choose. So here’s our expert Willerby guide to the indoor and outdoor greenery that will help to make your leisurely breaks even more rewarding.
The scent is instantly recognisable, as are the flowers with their distinctive shade of violet. No wonder lavender is one of the most popular of all garden shrubs. It’s straightforward to grow, too; simply plant in a sunny, well-drained spot or a container and leave it to flourish. The flowers bloom all summer and well into autumn. And it’s an evergreen, so the leaves never leave!
Lavender essential oil is used in aromatherapy to treat anxiety, depression and insomnia. It has a widely acknowledged ability to help you relax, unwind and get a healthy night’s sleep, supported by centuries of experience and herbal lore.
The potent and reassuring fragrance of lavender is traditionally associated with cleanliness and hygiene. Sachets of dried lavender scent freshly laundered clothes and linen cupboards since time immemorial. It can also deter fleas, which makes lavender sprigs an ideal addition to your pets’ bedding.
And let’s not forget lavender’s value as a cooking herb. It’s traditionally added to wedding cakes and can bring a delicate flavour and beautiful aroma to various dishes, especially desserts.
Rosemary is from the mint family, which helps explain the sense of freshness when you breathe in its aromatic, woody fragrance. It’s a scent that makes many of us dream about roast lamb for Sunday lunch.
But rosemary is much more than just a culinary herb. While the needle-like leaves are a kitchen essential, the flowers (mainly blue but sometimes pink) are rich in nectar and beloved by bees. And it’s another evergreen, so you can harvest fresh rosemary all year round.
Gardening experts recommend planting rosemary beside a path so that every time you brush past, it releases aromatic oils, filling the air with fragrance. It favours sunny locations sheltered from the wind and loves well-drained soil, so containers that can be moved out of harm’s way when it’s cold or wet are ideal. Annual pruning will prevent your rosemary bush from growing straggly and woody — and having the offcuts around is a great excuse to get some lamb chops on the BBQ.
Rosemary has an all-around ability to promote mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing, with a particularly beneficial effect on digestion. Massaging the tummy area with a few drops of rosemary essential oil is said to detoxify the liver and enhance gall bladder health. It can be an effective stress-buster, too, lowering cortisol levels in your blood. Many also believe it promotes hair growth and slow greying when massaged into the scalp.
In space, clean air is a matter of life and death. When NASA scientists researched plants that could enhance air quality on space stations, they found that the snake plant, aka sansevieria, effectively filtered toxins and pollutants.
As a pot plant, mother-in-law’s tongue (another of its many traditional names) has an unconventional, punky beauty. It’s a decorative and natural way to keep the air pure in any living space, including your holiday home.
If you are less than green-fingered, sansevieria is a great survivor. It only needs a light watering once a month, and perhaps a snack of some houseplant feed a couple of times a year. It’s resistant to pests, too, so overwatering is the only danger to its continuing health and growth. Snake plants prefer bright light, but can still thrive in darkish corners.
The one caveat is that those snazzy snakeskin-style leaves are poisonous, so place your plant where children and pets can’t reach.
There are many different varieties of jasmine. Some flower in winter, others in spring and summer, some are deciduous, and others are evergreen. But what unites all jasmine plants is that sweet floral fragrance with complex musky notes. No wonder perfumiers see jasmine as one of the “foundation stones” of their art.
The star-shaped white or yellow jasmine flowers give off their headiest scent in the evening, and some believe they’re most potent when the moon is waning.
Some varieties are best suited to potting for indoor growth, while others can be grown outdoors in sunny, sheltered and well-drained spots. As a vine related to the olive family, it is ideal for locating near a wall or fence. Fit a trellis or pergola and watch it climb.
Fragrant jasmine-infused tea has been popular in China since the Han dynasty (starting around 200 BC). But it’s not just refreshing. It is also rich in antioxidants, believed to protect the body against heart disease and several types of cancer. Many think it promotes weight loss by accelerating the metabolism, boosting brain function, and even helps to prevent tooth decay. Keep a jasmine plant in the bedroom, or use the essential oil to promote sound sleep. Jasmine is also reputed to reduce nervous tension and soothe persistent coughs.
The musical tongue-twister of a name simply means “golden flower” in ancient Greek. Still, those big, bold, pom-pom-shaped chrysanthemum blossoms nowadays come in a profusion of glorious colours, predominantly white, purple, pink and red.
Beyond their sheer beauty, ‘mums are popular because they bloom in the autumn. Perfect if you love your holiday home to be surrounded by vibrant natural colours and intense fragrance in September, October and even November.
The aroma is distinctively earthy and herby, described by perfumiers as “elegant”; very different from the sweet, cloying fragrances of most flowers. It also has an insect repellent effect – great news for you, terrible news for the local flies.
Health-wise, the whole flowers release a wide variety of antioxidants, organic compounds, vitamins, minerals and soothing chemicals when infused in hot water. Chrysanthemum tea has been used for centuries by herbalists and natural healers, helping to reduce inflammation and lower stress levels. The potassium content of the infusion can lower blood pressure, helping to protect you from heart attacks and strokes.
You say chamomile; we say camomile. Either way, this pretty plant, with white golden-hearted blossoms, is one of 32,000 varieties of Asteraceae, the family of starry flowers that range from daisies to sunflowers. Only orchids have more varieties.
The feathery dark green leaves are highly fragrant when brushed against or crushed, and are used in cooking. Some non-flowering cultivars of chamomile are planted like grass to create an aromatic lawn (but it’s a delicate plant, so don’t try playing football on a camomile lawn).
The flowering varieties grow best in well-drained soil with plenty of sunlight and are also suitable for potting. Chamomile grows so readily that it’s ideal for bringing splashes of summer-to-autumn colour and relaxing fragrance to even the tiniest garden. Perfect for the limited space around your holiday home.
Tea is what camomile is most famous for, of course. The apple-like fragrance is concentrated when the flowers are dried, and released when steeped in hot water for the renowned infusion. Herbalists recommend it for a range of health benefits, including curing stress-related insomnia, easing acid indigestion, and calming various allergic reactions, including hay fever, eczema, and asthma.
If you’re lucky enough to have some hot sunshine while staying at your holiday home (it can happen, even in Britain), aloe vera is a handy plant to have around. This spiky looking succulent with saw-toothed leaves is more than just a handsome addition to your pot plant collection; it contains a traditional remedy for cooling and soothing sunburn.
A word of warning, however. Avoid the yellow sap that oozes out first when cutting open an aloe vera leaf. Only the clear gel from further inside has this medicinal effect.
Unlike the other plants we are recommending, aloe vera isn’t strongly scented and rarely flowers in UK conditions, so how is it relaxing? Well, try taking things easy while suffering from painful or itchy sunburn!
The plant is low-maintenance — simply leave it in bright, indirect sunlight, choose a pot that drains well, and avoid overwatering at all costs. The gel is also meant to treat a range of skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis. Drinking aloe vera juice is also recommended for digestive health, but it’s safest to buy this from a health food store, rather than trying to make your own.
The words minty and fresh belong naturally together, and peppermint is the most aromatic of the many species of mint. Perfect for bringing a refreshing menthol zing to the air in and around your holiday home.
Peppermint plants grow anywhere that isn’t too dry. In fact, they will spread at speed given half a chance, so limiting them to containers is a wise move. Plenty of sunshine will enhance the aroma and boost the medicinal oil content of those vibrantly green leaves. The delicate, catkin-like pale purple flowers bloom in July and last until September.
The menthol oil can be added to a bath or used as a rub to help soothe aching muscles, and the scent has the power to calm tension, lower stress, and lift your mood. Inhaling peppermint is excellent for clearing a blocked nose and other cold symptoms. Likewise, peppermint tea is a traditional remedy for indigestion and easing headaches and migraines.
Need more relaxing plant ideas?
- Mexican orange blossom is a hardy evergreen, compact enough for even the most miniature garden. The small white flowers smell of almonds, and the plant produces a luscious citrus scent when gently touched.
- Christmas box is a cheering addition to an all-year-round holiday home, because its tiny white flower clusters produce a heady aroma in the deep midwinter.
- Fancy a flower that smells of chocolate? Cosmos atrosanguineus, aka chocolate cosmos, is another Mexican import that needs to be kept indoors in winter, but rewards your TLC with a unique Cadbury’s-like aroma throughout the summer.
- If you have a damp, shady spot to fill, bugbane will thrive there. Better still, its bottle brush-style flowers bloom late, in September and October, and add drama with dark red or chocolate brown fern-like leaves.
- And let’s not forget honeysuckle, a plant that guarantees lovely white and yellow flowers, plus a heady spring and summer scent you’ll love — and your friendly, neighbourhood pollinators will love even more.
Where does it end? There are thousands of more plants you can choose to help turn your holiday home into the most relaxing place possible. And, speaking of relaxation, nothing could be more conducive to a chilled-out vibe than knowing your holiday home is built to last and bring you year after year of carefree living.
The simplest way to achieve that is to choose from the UK’s most popular range. So why not explore our fantastic choice of holiday homes and lodges, find your perfect location, and discover the Willerby difference that lies behind our blossoming reputation?