The great outdoors is a wonderful thing. There’s no doubting that green spaces are therapeutic and no matter where you are in the world, getting out in to a well planted and maintained garden is a relaxing experience. Many of us enjoy gardens through sight, but if we really engage there are many ways we can get fully immersed in the experience.
Nature itself encourages us to use all our senses. We smell flowers, press our feet into grass, hear the chirping of the birds in the trees, and feast our eyes on the vibrant colours all around us. With light being thrown on to the subjects of mental health, mindfulness and meditation, more and more we are seeing our customers looking for ways to turn their gardens into havens of relaxation.
One of the first things to consider, as with any project, is who your garden is going to be enjoyed by. Kids will love the full-on experience a sensory garden brings – bright colours, interesting and varied textures, tastes and smells.
The key to a successful sensory garden is incorporating elements that stimulate the five senses. First, before you even consider planting, think about how the space in your garden is currently utilized. Are there ways of making your garden more immersive and interactive? Consider landscaping aspects such as seating areas, paths, and water features – all of which you can plant around, using colour and texture to compliment the space. If children are your main audience, then you will want to steer clear of plants with thorns or spikes – the same rule goes for pets, as inquisitiveness might get the better of them! Adults might better enjoy a place to sit and enjoy the garden in all its glory.
To stimulate hearing, choose plants and trees that will make noise as the wind passes through them. Bamboo makes a satisfyingly relaxing rustle in the wind and ornamental grasses, like Stipa gigantea, will create a gentle whispering noise. Water features can be another source of noise that is relaxing, and you have a greater amount of control over the noise they make. For example, smaller water features offer a lighter, less obtrusive sound, whereas larger features can lend a louder, rushing sound more akin to a stream or brook.
Most gardens will already have a variety of textures from the plants, trees and shrubs already planted. The beauty of making a garden more of a sensory experience is that it doesn’t necessarily need to be neat. It is wise, however, to think about how you want each section of your garden to feel. Calming areas, planted up with green and blue colours, will benefit from soft plant flora to complement the ambience. For more of a feature, sharper plants with vibrant colours will draw the eye and create a focal point in your garden.
Once we start thinking of our gardens as interactive spaces, the possibilities are endless. Sensory gardens can be enjoyed by people of any age; the kids can go out and become little explorers and adults can relax and reflect surrounded by all the beauty nature has to offer. Bliss!
JASON IS A PROFESSIONAL GARDENER AND LANDSCAPER, AND OWNER OF JHPS-GARDENS LTD.
HE REGULARLY WRITES A PIECE FOR OUR WEBSITE, PLUS THE SENTINEL NEWSPAPER,
AND IS A GO TO EXPERT ON BBC RADIO STOKE’S GARDENING PROGRAMME.