The sensory garden

It’s easy to think of a garden as something you just look at or look after – and with our west of Ireland weather that can be the case all too often. A garden can do so much more for you than just enhance your home and look smart – if planned carefully it can bring you so many benefits and enhance your well-being by appealing to all five of the senses – this is what we call a sensory garden and thinking about the garden this way and incorporating elements that appeal to the senses can help you to get the very best from this valuable space.

The sense of sight is the first obvious thing to associate with your garden for obvious reasons, and if it’s not quite the way you would like it to be, the effect can be more detrimental than otherwise. A visually appealing space is the first and most obvious goal for many people wanting to improve the garden.

Scent is probably the next thing you’re inclined to think of and can be included in more ways than you might think. Leaving aside the heavenly fragrance of roses, lilies, sweet peas and all the glorious things in flower right now, lots of plants offer scent at other times of the year, from spring flowering bulbs to autumn leaves to winter flowering shrubs – all the sweeter for being rare and unexpected.

Sound can be a tricky one with passing traffic, nearby construction works and even neighbours partying being things you might happily do without. If you can incorporate sounds that you like though, it’s easier for the mind to screen out the things it doesn’t want to hear. Birdsong and bees buzzing are my must-haves, with the sound of running water being soothing for many.

Have you ever considered the sense of touch in connection with your garden? Here’s one that’s often overlooked at the planning stage, and yet different textures can add immeasurably to the sensory experience. I keep this in mind especially when designing gardens to be enjoyed by the very young as well as the very elderly, and the sense of touch is linked very closely with all the other sensory elements. Leaves can feel soft and fuzzy, grasses silky and petals velvety. Bark offers a whole world of texture to explore. The choice of stone alone offers a world of possibilities from rough to smooth.

We mustn’t forget taste, and if edible gardening is important to you the chances are that the taste of home grown produce is why you grow your own fruit and vegetables – you simply can’t buy the taste of a sun ripened tomato or strawberry minutes after it’s picked. Even if your time and space are limited though, a few home grown herb plants for cooking or herbal tea will allow you to enjoy the taste of your own garden.

Next time you’re in the garden, close your eyes and see what your garden has to offer all your other senses. You might be surprised……..

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