Most of our gardens are designed and appreciated for their visual beauty. We love color and for the most part this gives us great pleasure. We do not often consider the notion of appealing to the other senses of smell, sound, touch and taste, but imagine how much richer our appreciation of the garden would be if we did.
SMELL – Have you ever been within sniffing distance of a lilac and not stopped what you’re doing to breathe in the incredible fragrance? In early spring, a well-placed Viburnum carlesii, near a door or window, will intoxicate you with its sweet spicy scent, as will Calycanthus and Clethra alnifolia in the summer months. One of my favorite trees, Magnolia grandiflora, with its gorgeous leathery foliage and large, waxy camellia like flowers, will captivate you with its citrusy scent in early summer. Fragrant vines such as Wisteria, Honeysuckle and Fragrant Clematis will enchant you, as will other plants like Jasmine, Camellia, Peony, Casa Blanca Lilies, Lavender and Lily of the Valley. Many herbs are fragrant with rosemary at the top of the list. The lingering scent from the simple act of rubbing your fingers on its foliage will take with it all the stresses of the day!
SOUND – Water in the garden, whether in the form of a small recirculating pond with a bubbler or a formal fountain, is one of the most peaceful sounds in nature. So is the sound of songbirds, and attracting them to the garden is relatively easy. Offer the shade of a tree, a large shrub for cover from prey and a food source of berries, worms and nectar for sustenance. They will delight you with their melodies from dawn to dusk. Bird baths, feeders and houses are delightful garden accessories that will also attract birds year round. Wind chimes offer a less organic, but effective way to add sound to the garden, however, be careful to choose one with a pleasing tone and melody.
TOUCH – The sense of touch is less obvious in the garden than the other senses, so the design elements, whether a stone sculpture, bench or urn, need to be more obviously placed so that one cannot help but touch them. From the exfoliating bark of River Birch to the soft touch of moss, plants offer an endless combination of tactile appeal. How can you stroll past the fountain grass without wanting to feel the softness of the foxtails or the plumes of Miscanthus. The succulent leaves of Sedum, the soft and silky foliage of Lambs Ear’s, and the leathery flower petals of Magnolia grandiflora, all beg to be touched and should be planted within easy reach. When designing your garden consider plant combinations with contrasting textures. Coarse textured plants, whether from foliage or flower, tend to be accents in the garden and should be combined with large groupings of fine textured plants.
TASTE – Today, most gardens are designed for beauty and visual enjoyment, but there appears to be a renewed interest in getting back to the time before supermarkets, when gardens were organic and sustainable. Dwarf fruit trees in the lawn, a berry patch, grape vines on a pergola, hanging baskets of cherry tomatoes on the porch, a trellis of cucumbers or containers filled with various vegetables and herbs on the patio not only give us personal enjoyment and satisfaction, but also feed the soul. What tastes better than a tomato freshly picked from your garden or grapes from the vine? Where space is limited, container gardening is a great option and can be placed wherever there is at least 6 hours of full sun and water is available, hopefully near the kitchen. Garden centers, web sites or your favorite garden designer, can help choose the right container and plants for you.
By choosing to explore and implement these possibilities beyond the visual experience, we will most assuredly be rewarded with a greater appreciation and enjoyment in our garden.
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Written by Maria Morrison-Ferrero