Summer 2015 has provided gardeners with a good mix of hot, cool, dry and wet weather, with clear, blue-sky days interspersed with squally ones and plenty of rain to hydrate our green spaces. This combination has left gardens lush and colourful, and the soil moist and rich, providing a great foundation for the gardening months ahead and a treat for the senses into 2016.
Of course, all gardens offer sensory experiences, but have you ever considered creating a sensory garden? A sensory garden is one that has been conceived with the objective of optimising every inch of space to appeal broadly to the five individual senses. They’re designed for visitors to fully immerse themselves in the space, and hold particular value for disabled people, children and the elderly, all of whom experience their immediate environment in different ways. A sensory garden can be a teaching tool, as well as a place of healing and pleasure. Below is a quick overview of how to delight each of the senses as you craft your own sensory garden.
All gardens are primarily a visual pleasure so the key here is diversity. Thinking of your garden as a painting will help you to plan composition; ask yourself where height is needed, how the overall proportions balance, where pops of colour will brighten dark crevices and how different textures can be positioned alongside one another to introduce interest and aesthetic intrigue.
Often overlooked, sound can lull and revive a person without their even noticing it. Grasses with the wind moving through them, the soft gurgle of a water feature or natural stream, the sweet tinkle of chimes hanging from branches, or the hearty crunch of gravel underfoot…all of these contribute to the ambiance. The other sound that’s always heard in a healthy garden is that of birds and insects going about their business. Crickets, bees, chaffinches, blue tits and many other garden dwellers all add to the aural pleasure of a sensory garden.
Every plant has its own specific feel – the dewy grass between your toes, the velvet softness of byzantine, the hard thorns of roses and the smooth rounded heads of poppies. However, tactile elements like smooth pebbles, sleek slate and gentle sand will also provide touchable textures.
The aromas we associate with gardens are often sweet and perfumed. Consider old-fashioned roses with their distinctive floral freshness, clouds of blooming night phlox emitting the smell of candy at ankle height, and the tempting, clean scent of lavender. However, a truly sensory gardener will also embrace the peaty smell of healthy soil, the savoury smell of growing thyme and sage, and the unmistakable, strong aromas of plants like wild garlic and curry.
If you have children or grandchildren, a garden full of tasty morsels will really help you to engage them. Easy-to-grow herbs like rosemary, mint and chives link the garden directly to the kitchen and there are even some flowers that are edible. You can eat the petals of flowers including roses, hibiscus and primroses, a fact that delights little children. If you’re lucky enough to have mature fruit trees providing an annual harvest, they’ll also contribute to your delicious sensory garden.
A well-designed sensory garden packed full of features will appeal to all the senses. It is a 360° experience that you, your family and your friends will relish all year round, as well as a fertile learning environment for children and adults alike.
Friday, 15th April 2016