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Stimulate your senses to create a healthy garden

By Staff Reporter

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Bright colours lining a path are great in a garden designed for entertaining.
Bright colours lining a path are great in a garden designed for entertaining.

Immerse yourself in a sensory experience by filling your garden with plants that excite the senses. Whether it’s their exciting colours, evocative scents, delicious flavours, tactile appeal or just their calming rustling and movement, we benefit in many ways from having plants in our lives.

Plants can create vibrant and stimulating gardens for families to play out and entertain, using bold shapes and bright colours that stimulate the senses. Children can be encouraged outside to explore, interacting with sensory plants and the natural world around them.

In complete contrast, plants can be used to make calming, private and secluded spaces. A tranquil garden that calms the senses is the perfect place to sit and relax, or just meditate and practice mindfulness… relieving stress and improving mental health and wellbeing.

Colour plays a big part in garden design. Bold and bright colours such as yellow, orange and red are vibrant and uplifting, perfect for family gardens designed for play and entertaining. In contrast, cool colours including blue, mauve, violet and green are more calming, and good to use around areas designed for rest and relaxation.

Tall and dense boundary hedges and planting can reduce annoying man-made noise from roads and neighbours, creating a feeling of shelter and protection, but don’t ignore the importance of sound in a sensory garden either. Perhaps it’s wind gently rocking and rustling the branches of trees, a robin perched high-up entertaining us with its song, bees busily harvesting pollen and nectar from beautiful blooms, or the calming sound of trickling water.

Whether you’re creating a stimulating garden or relaxing sensory environment, all gardens have the power to heal and contribute to a healthier and happier life. And getting outside gardening provides exercise as well as a sense of achievement.

Research has highlighted how valuable contact with plants is to our health, whether through the beauty and colour we can see or non-visual stimulation by touching, tasting, smelling or hearing the natural sounds around us. A multi-sensory garden evokes a direct physiological response, both consciously and unconsciously, affecting our mood, relieving stress, evoking memories, relieving boredom, stimulating conversation, and tapping in to the healing power of nature.

Angelica. Picture: Adam Pasco Media
Angelica. Picture: Adam Pasco Media

Did you know?

Do you fancy some quiet ‘me time’? Silent Space is a project promoting peaceful time in green and tranquil spaces – somewhere to switch off your phone, escape and the hustle and bustle of everyday life, stop talking, avoid social media, and let your body and mind wander.

Several gardens are supporting Silent Space. Whether you want to walk in silence or just sit and contemplate the beautiful garden around you, in just a few minutes you’ll be reaping the restorative benefits of being in a peaceful green space. For more information visit www.silentspace.org.uk.

The Quiet Garden Movement also creates opportunities to experience silence, restfulness and contemplative practices for rest, reflection and prayer. See quietgarden.org

Tasty herbs and salads from the garden can add to your sensory enjoyment.
Tasty herbs and salads from the garden can add to your sensory enjoyment.

Plants of the moment: excite the senses

Virtually every plant will stimulate one sense or another, so this month we’re celebrating plants for all their diverse sensory appeal. Whether you’re looking for something colourful, tactile, fragrant or flavoursome, there are plants available to enjoy all year round.

Be creative by developing displays along paths and around areas where you sit outside, so you can get up close and personal with the plants you choose.

Sensory plants could include:

Colourful – highlight plants for both seasonal colour impact and year-round value. Consider colour-theming plant displays, and recommending planting partners.

Tactile – plants with soft, hairy or textured leaves, stems or bark such as oranemtal grasses, Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’, Santolina (Cotton Lavender), Phlomis fruticosa (Jerusalem Sage), Stachys byzantina (Lamb’s Ear), Itea illicifolia.

Scented – plants with fragrant flowers and foliage like lavender, scented leaf Pelargoniums, Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ (Catnip), Artemisa ‘Powis Castle’ (Wormwood).

Swaying and rustling – tall, graceful ornamental grasses like Miscanthus, Stipa, Pennisetum, Cortaderia (Pampas grass) and Bamboo.

Tasty – culinary herbs like sage, thyme, chives, parsley, basil and ornamental angelica, plus fruits from trees and bushes, soft fruits like strawberries, and vegetable crops and delicious fresh salad leaves straight from the garden.

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