Creating a Gratitude Garden

by Christine Sine

by Christine Sine.

Last year I created a gratitude garden (amongst others) and have had a number of enquiries about how I do this. It looks as though I never wrote about it on Godspace so I thought that some of you would appreciate learning about the process I went though and seeing the garden I ended up with.

Creating contemplative gardens has become a very important spiritual practice for me and I love the way that this then provides focus for other spiritual practices throughout the following season.

Choose a Theme.

I didn’t really decide to create a gratitude garden. However, over the summer last year  I spent a lot of time thinking about 2  phrases “say yes to what is life giving” and “say no to what is life draining”. I blogged about it here. Out of that sprang the word “gratitude” and as we headed into October my meditation grew into “my cup overflows”. That’s it, I thought. I want to make a gratitude garden to guide me through the season, using the theme “my cup overflows with gratitude.”

Do some planning

I went on Pinterest looking for gardens that might give me some ideas. I was particularly attracted by the gardens that used a fruit bowl with a banana hook usually with a small teapot hanging from them. So I started to imagine in my mind what that could look like. Not a teapot but a cup I thought – “My cup overflows with gratitude” was my mantra after all.

Gather supplies


Gratitude garden

1 fruit bowl with banana hook
1 bowl that fits inside the fruit bowl
1 tea cup
A bag of organic cactus soil
3 succulents for the bowl and one more that will drape into the bowl from the cup
A couple of rocks or a bag of decorative rocks 2-3″
Paint pens
Small colorful decorative rock chips
Acrylic sealer

I always have an endless supply of small succulent plants available so that wasn’t hard. And I seem to have an abundant supply of tea cups too because my friends know I love tea and are always giving me cups. I now have 65 of them and can’t use them all but I love incorporating them in my contemplative gardens.

The container was a little more challenging. I visited the local Goodwill, St Vincent De Paul (Vinnys as we always called it in Australia) or other thrift store is a good option.

My local Goodwill store had all I needed a fruit bowl with a hook and down the next aisle a bowl that fitted it perfectly. And if I had needed it they had plenty of teacups for me to choose from too. Most people tell you that you need a bowl with a drainage hole but I have found that as long as I don’t overwater the plants this is not really necessary and my gratitude garden is now in its second year with the original plants in it.

A bag of cactus soil. I like this one because it is organic, and one bag goes a long way. However if you have time you can make it cheaper by purchasing a bag of organic soil at Home Depot, adding some coarse sand and perlite or pumice to the mix. 3 parts soil to 2 parts sand and one part perlite. Don’t use soil that has vermiculite as it retains moisture that succulents don’t want in it. Don’t use sand from the garden, the beach, or that is already in the sandbox as it might contain ingredients harmful to your plants.

Home Depot also has a good supply of small succulents (though I do prefer our local nursery).

I found a couple of rocks in the garden that seemed to be the right size and shape, washed them and got to work. (If you don’t have the luxury of a garden with rocks get a bag of decorative rocks. I like the 2-3″ size though if you are making a really small garden and have fine paint pens to decorate with and the skill to work with them, then smaller rocks may work.

I also like to decorate with small colorful rock chips afterwards. I have also used broken chips of china, pine cones and shells to decorate my gardens. Just make sure you have washed them first to get any salt water or other contaminants out of them.

As you can imagine this supply list will provide sufficient supplies for you to make many succulent gardens in the future and are probably only worth purchasing if you anticipate becoming as addicted to the art as I am.

Have Some Fun Creating

Fruit bowl and garden

This really was a fun process.

First I painted my rocks. This is where those paint pens I love to play with are so handy. They make it easy to paint with a minimum of mess. And I am messy enough without my creative projects adding to the mess. I wrote “gratitude on one” and “my cup overflows” on the other and did some small decorations around my words to make them stand out more. I gave them a half hour to dry and then I sprayed them with Mod Podge Acrylic sealer. You don’t need to use the sealer but the designs look better for longer if you do. And don’t forget you are not making this garden so that it looks perfect but rather for your enjoyment. As you can see my rocks are far from perfect but I love them and thoroughly enjoy my garden

Painted rock

Now fill your bowl with soil.

Arrange your plants and rocks so that you are sure there is enough space for all of them.

Plant your plants. I used three in this arrangement as my bowl was fairly small. I then filled the teacup half full with soil and planted the hanging plant in it. This was the hardest part – getting the soil to remain in the teacup without it coming out and dumping the plant on top of the rest of the garden when it got a little dry was challenging at first. Then I realized that if I took the cup off the hook when I watered it and gently pressed the soil back in place, it would remain more easily.

Decorate around the plants with small rock chips or broken pottery. 

Place it on your desk and enjoy.

This garden becomes my focus during my gratitude season then gets moved out onto our front porch to be replaced by the next contemplative garden (probably Advent). I use it every morning to ask “What are three things I am grateful for” As the mornings got darker I added a couple of candles to it last year as well. This year I am not sure that there is space but it did add to my enjoyment.

Gratitude garden at night

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Anya C Almgren October 15, 2019 - 7:22 am

Thank you for this post, Christine. I’ve been trying to think of what I could do as an additional activity to teaching my preschool students about gratitude throughout November. I wanted to do something with painted rocks, and I think the addition of succulents in a garden for our classroom would be perfect! I love your idea, “My cup overflows with gratitude” and using an overflowing teacup to symbolize that as well. I was already planning on going to the Goodwill tonight. Now I have a shopping list in hand! Thanks again!

Christine Sine October 15, 2019 - 8:30 am

I am very pleased to hear this. I hope you will send me a photo of what you come up with.

laycistercians September 30, 2020 - 2:30 am

Wow! I’m also planning to do this too and put it in our prayer room. Those designs looks great.

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