Garden Design By The Senses
Written by John Conti
People ask me all the time what to do with their garden. I can immediately
sense their frustration and disappointment. They feel intimidated and
disconnected from their landscape. After studying garden magazines and design
plans, they still don't know where to begin. I often hear, "I thought it would
be more fun." I agree. Gardening should be more fun. It should also
be more natural. So how do we create these rich, inviting spaces that are both
beautiful and personal? Perhaps it's as simple as putting the gardener back into
the garden, the inner gardener who speaks to us through the senses.
What is your preferred sense to enjoy the garden? Close your eyes and think
about the word 'garden.' What memories, sounds, tastes, scents or images come to
Are you inundated with visuals or do you immediately imagine yourself
biting into a ripe, red tomato? Maybe you see yourself sipping iced tea in the
shade, or smelling roses. Take note of the impressions you
receive and compile a list. Itís natural to give your dominant sense first
priority. Just remember to include secondary elements to incorporate all of the
Although the visual garden is the most obvious, it doesnít have to be ordinary.
Are you drawn to flowers with bright bold colours or tranquil landscapes with
deep shade and minimalism? Maybe you prefer the intricacy and precision of an
English formal garden. Sign up for your local garden tour and gather ideas from
established gardens. Donít forget solar lighting,
candles and citronella torches to extend your enjoyment. Gardens can be magical
Sound in the garden is often overlooked. For instant gratification, you can
install wind chimes or a free standing fountain. To invite singing birds, add
birdhouses and a feeder. Consider all-weather speakers if you like to entertain
outdoors. You can purchase waterproof speaker systems in the shapes of rocks.
Everyone loves the fragrance of roses in bloom. Consider adding beds of lemon
thyme and sage. Try growing moonflower vine on your fence. It blooms at night
and has a clean, refreshing scent. Pick up a book on herb gardening, the
possibilities are endless. I like to grow rosemary, patchouli and lavender for
Thereís nothing like growing culinary herbs. Many of them can be dried or frozen
to enjoy year-round. My favourites are basil and chives. Vegetable gardening is a
passion for many. Donít let a small yard inhibit your plans. I like to mix small
vegetable plants among my perennials and annual flowers. You can grow tomatoes
and peppers in a planter on your back porch.
Small fruit trees are easy to grow and maintain. They add ornamental value as
well. Try a dwarf peach or apple variety.
Few people think about the tactile sense while planning a garden. Itís a key
element that we take for granted. We may have forgotten how much we enjoyed
walking barefoot in the grass as a child. Have you ever stopped to watch people
in a garden nursery? Youíll notice people touching pine needles, rubbing leaves
or blades of grass. Itís a natural inclination. There
are many subtle ways to connect with the sense of touch in the garden.. Think
about adding a hammock or porch swing to enjoy the breeze against your skin. I
love to use my copper fire pit as often as possible for warmth and ambience on a
cool night. Try stargazing in a hot tub. The heat and stimulating jets can sooth
aching muscles and rejuvenate the spirit.
Anything that makes you feel physically comfortable in the garden can satisfy
your sense of touch.
Now that you have an appealing list for inspiration, grab your shovel and get
back out there. Indulge the senses, and your inner gardener will emerge.
John Conti is a landscaper and publisher of Stellasyard.com | The Soulful
Garden. Visit his web site for how to articles, advice and free design plans.
Beginners are welcome. stellasyard.com