Sensory Gardens

Let your senses be aroused! Most of our gardens are designed for our eyes and our tastes. We use edibles and vegetable gardens to prepare a palette for our taste buds. We delight our eyes with textures, colors, scale, balance, and form. But do we create a garden that maintains these ideas and also enlivens our more delightful senses? What about creating a garden that not only looks good, but feels good?


Using plants and water to sculpt a garden for all our senses is easy. Most of us are close to that already. The best way to find out what we need to improve upon is to go out, sit on a bench or the grass, close our eyes, breathe deep, inhale vigorously, and listen. If you have a light breeze, you should be able to hear the rustling of grasses, the creaking of trees, or the splashing of water. As you inhale, you should have smells of flowers wafting over your senses, delighting your olfactory nerves.


If you sit, listen and breathe, and all you get is the smell of the lawn and the sounds of birds, you are not doing enough. A garden should enliven all your senses, not just a few of them. Lucky for you, the answers to your problem are right here!

By adding highly fragrant flowers, plants for movement, and water, you can create a paradise in your yard. A garden without grasses is not worth much time. I have not visited a garden yet that I liked without grasses. Such a simple fix, add some Maiden Grass Morning Light’, Little Bluestem ‘Carousel’, or Northern Sea Oats and let the sounds wash over you! It is like being at the beach when the waves are crashing against the shores. Other plants great for moving sounds are trees, with their ever-swaying branches and trunks.


Using highly fragrant flowers should not be a problem either. Most of us have some plants that have fragrant cousins or cultivars; we just need to add them. Dianthus, Korean Spice Viburnum, Lavender, Lilac, Nicotiana, Iris, and Peony are just a few of the greatly scented plants we can grow and add to our landscapes. Roses, of course, everyone has. However, many of our shrub roses are not cultivated for fragrance; they were selected for their long bloom periods. You can still have your roses and smell them too. Grow some shrub roses for long lasting color; also add a few David Austin English roses or some hybrid teas to your garden for their scent. Your reward will be great.


It does not take much to add water to your garden. A bubbling rock, a homemade fountain, a pondless waterfall, all can be built rather easily and for little cost compared to large ponds and streams. By adding some water movement in the garden, you not only compose music for your ears, you add a habitat for beneficial insects, frogs, turtles, and a place for birds to drink.  You have just enhanced your garden!

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If you do not know where to start, ask questions. I know we can all create a garden that takes us out of this world and into paradise. Happy planting!

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