Creating a garden that stimulates all of your senses using water-wise plants, can be very rewarding. Enjoying not only the sights and smells of your garden, but hearing, touching and tasting it is a matter of choosing just the right plant and locating it where it will deliver the most enjoyment to your senses.
Touch A garden pathway is an ideal place to locate touchable plants such as New Zealand Wind Grass, Stipa arundinacea or native Deer Grass such as Muhlenbergia ngens. They invite visitors to linger while gently passing the foliage or flower over their hand. Using walk-able ground covers such as Yarrow, Achillea tomentosa on pathways instead of stone or grass will provide your feet with unexpected sensation. Kids love the deceptively soft foliage of Lambs Ears, Stachys byzantina; it’s like having a petting zoo in their own backyard.
Sound Instead of depending upon wind chimes to add sound to your garden, add trees or shrubs that attract song birds or humming birds to bring in natural sounds. Nectar producing shrubs such as Ava’s Hummingbird Mint, Agastache ‘Ava’ attract hummingbirds. To enjoy the gurgling sound of water slowly running over stones, add a water feature or a pond-less urn-style fountain. Capture the sound of the breeze rustling through the grass by adding tall clumping Feather Reed Grass, Calamagrostis acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster.’
Smell By spreading roses throughout the garden rather than grouping them all in one area, visitors enjoy their intoxicating scent repeatedly. Heirloom roses, found at specialty stores like Roses of Yesterday and Today, have the best fragrance. Adding plants that have scented foliage such as Cleveland Sage, Salvia clevelandii and Lemon thyme, Thymus citriodorus to areas around pathways, smell wonderful when brushed against. Consider growing perfumed vines to add even more fragrance. While the Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ is a popular choice for its sweet perfume that can fill a garden, remember that it is also toxic to pets.
Taste You can look beyond your vegetable garden for edible plants, your ornamental garden can offer its own tasty delights. New varieties of artichokes, cabbage and lettuce offer distinctive foliage colors and textures that fit well with perennials. Edible flowers such as nasturtiums and pansies can be added to salads or used as garnish. Culinary herbs such as oregano, sage, or rosemary can be mixed with perennials.
Sight Creating a pleasing visual picture can be done by varying the height, form, color and texture of your plantings. Placing ground covers in contrasting colors under taller perennials will add sparkle. Adding outdoor lighting will illuminate your garden at night. Use a neighbor’s tree or other element as a center of visual interest for creating a frame of your own. An element of mystery can be added by having garden pathways disappear behind larger plantings.
What sensory experience do you want to add to your garden? A well designed sustainable sensory garden can provide long term enjoyment of earthly delights.
Thank you Maureen Decombe, Green Willow Gardens, for permission to use your pictures as design examples.
Wonderful tips! Interesting that one of them is an idea that’s been in my head for a few days now…. Bocce Ball Court. Unfortunately, my garden is much too small. But the potted fountain over a waterless pond is on my bucket list. And my garden is most definitely a sustainable sensory garden. Because of it’s size, I determined a strict criteria for it: (1) edible, (2) great smells, (3) medicinal, (4) floral. Whatever I plant, it had to have at least two of the four. In some cases, some of my plants only met one but it was such a great plant! These days, I’m attempting companion planting but so far it’s only been in the raised bed because of my dog. I don’t trust he won’t pee on them.
Future projects: (1) creating an espaliered fruit and berry fence in my front yard to enclose the patio and give the sense of privacy from the street. (2) potted fountain. (3) Take over half of the front lawn with raised floral and vegie beds. I wish I could hire you for suggestions and plans, unfortunately being retired, I’ve a very limited budget. So this means, all these projects are things that are very slowly being worked on…. so far, mostly in my head. I know I’m not alone in this predicament… so here’s a question for you, is there something/someway you can provide a service that is low budget or even to get people like me seeing how it might work and actually save us time and money to hire your services?
Julie, I invite you to post these tips on my FB page: GARDEN GOURMAND. Believe you are already a member there.
You are at a crossroads that many people find themselves at: they have a ton of ideas but no plan for implementation. That’s a perfect place for a landscape designer to step in and help.
To set the record straight, I have worked with many retired clients on others on limited budgets. That’s why I developed my ‘Express Garden Service’. Not only is the design affordable, but having a plan can actually save you money in the long haul since you won’t be making costly changes during or after the installation when you don’t like the outcome because you did not planned properly. Here’s the link:
How exciting to see Julia’s great choice for the fountain on the strawberry mound. I visited this garden last month, and the strawberries have grown in thickly, and they were COVERED with fruit. Yum, the fringe benefits of designing edible gardens meant I needed to harvest my “share”. The contrast between the red strawberries and the blue, strawberry-shaped fountain were exactly what we were going for. The raised bed, of almost pure compost (the Diestel Farms OMRI-Certified Compost from Lyngso), is like a magical strawberry growing ground.
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