From June to August, breathtaking scenery explodes in the Luberon region of Provence. Vast fields of pinkish purple, violet, and blueish-indigo stretch as far as the eye can see, lining quiet roads, covering valleys, and cascading over slopes. The gentle summer wind blows over the fields, awakening a floral and herbaceous scent that lingers in the air and the mind.You succumb to the temptation of walking barefoot on the warm earth and eating delicious cherries straight from the tree.
Across the globe, people scour the department stores tobring the fragrance of French lavender to their homes. This fresh, potent berry note with a light woody undertone is said to hold the power to soothe, relax, and ease a person’s anxieties. Christian Dior described this native scent as the “perfume of contented nature.” But no bottle of essential oil or perfume can capture what it’s like in Provence during summerwhen the lavender fields and orchards are in full bloom, and the rustling of the leaves are interspersed with birdsong and laughter.
Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it?
But you don’t have to travel all the way to France to experience this sensory feast. In fact, you can recreate it in your own backyard. With a little green thumb andplenty of imagination, you can transform any landscape into a stimulating and therapeutic garden.
What is a Sensory Garden?
As the name suggests, a sensory garden is a self-contained area that’s resplendent withlush plantings, aromatic plants, splashes of color, and other elements that engage and enrich all the sensory systems. Below are the key components to have in your garden of delight:
Touch: Tactile Nourishment for the Soul
There’s no shortage of plants and garden features that encourage the sense of touch. From walking barefoot on a cool, mossy trail to running your fingertips through boxwood shrubs, almost every element in your garden can tickle this powerful sensory system.But to get a variety of experiences, be strategic with your plantings and incorporate some hardscaping. Vary textures in your garden with features like stone, smooth pebbles, sand, water, lichen-covered rocks, and tiles. Place trees and tall plants along paths so when you walk along them, you’re brushed with foliage. Put delicate flowers and prickly or thorny plants in hard-to-reach areas or away from seating areas and paths. And more importantly, provideshady areas for relaxation. You wouldn’t want to feel pain and discomfort in your sensory oasis.
Creating Visual Interest with Colors and Textures
The plant world is brimming with colors, shapes, and special features to create a breathtaking visual environment in your yard. Group plants of different sizes, shapes, and colors together to provide contrast. Keep the seasons in mind, though, when planting varying colors. During winter, for example, plant bulbs to add color. Plant white blooms in the spring and summer so they offer a stark contrast with green foliage. Choose plants and trees that change their color in autumn for more visual interest. On top of vegetation, there’s a ton of other objects that you can use to enhance the aesthetic appeal of your garden. With a little creativity, even the most mundane objects you can find in your home, like old boots, a rusty tub, or old wheelbarrow can be used as quirky planters. If you wish to enjoy your garden at night, hang colorful lanterns or string lights over trees and along walkways. Experiment with different garden lighting techniques so that your garden is still alive after daylight.
Sounds for the Senses
There are many ways to bring sounds to the garden. Wind chimes, moving water, birdsong, crunching gravel, wind whistling between leaves – you name it. Attracting birds and wildlife is a surefire way to enjoy a variety of soundscape from dawn to dusk. To achieve this, plant nectar-producing flowers and include a birdbath or feeders.
Moving water is another relaxing sound. Install a waterfall or fountain near seating areas. Hang wind chimes made of different materials, like beads, seashells, metal, and bamboo and enjoy hypnotic sounds when the wind blows. Crushed gravel also creates a satisfying sound when you walk over it so you may want to use this material for narrower pathways.
Mingling Aromas to Entice Emotions
Like taste, certain smells trigger memories, delight the senses, and easily find their way in our memory banks. But keep in mind that when incorporating scent in your garden, you wouldn’t want to overdo it. Space scented flowers and herbs at intervals around your garden to avoid getting overwhelmed. Place your favorite botanicals and aromatics along walkways, edges, seats, or near the patio so you get to smell them more often. If you’re one for minty, earthy scents, go for herbs like basil, thyme, and mint. If you desire a fruitier scent, sweet-smelling plants like honeysuckle, gardenia, and lavender are good choices. Enjoy an aromatic breeze at night by planting night-blooming jasmine, evening primrose, or gardenia.
The Delights of Fresh Herbs and Fruit
Maximize the space you have and take your green thumb to the next level by planting edible flowers, vegetables, herbs, and small fruit trees. You can start with easy-to-grow varieties like tomatoes, onion, basil, chives, peas, berries, citrus trees, and salad greens. There’s nothing more rewarding than having fresh produce right outside your backdoor. If you don’t have enough space in your garden for vegetable beds and fruit trees, consider containers and vertical beds. Almost all types of lettuce and herbs grow well in pots and elevated planters.
Trail of Discovery
All gardens are made for pleasure and are designed to be admired while you sit in the porch enjoying afternoon tea. But sensory gardens are a little more interactive. They are best experienced up close, gradually, as you walk along a route and relish in every feature you come across along the way. Making the entire garden accessible enriches this experience, which can be achieved by creating a well-defined route or a series of routes that encourage exploration.
Sensory gardens tickle not only the senses but also the imagination. They help stimulate the mind, reenergizes the spirit, and make a great contribution to a person’s emotional and physical health. And more importantly, they can be beautiful places to contemplate, meditate, reflect, and relax.
38-year old supervisor of an organic produce company. In-charge of overseeing greenhouse efficiency five days a week.