Create a garden to tantalize the senses
By Guy Burtenshaw – Garden Press Event
Accessible gardens are gardens for everyone; they eliminate barriers to enjoying gardens, providing spaces for people of all ages and abilities. Gardening for the senses can create calm areas to help people with mental health conditions or a fabulous array of aromas and textures to ignite our sense of smell, touch and sound.
Gardening for the Senses
Design your accessible garden for all the senses. Beautiful colours and shapes appeal to the eyes. Feeling textured and fuzzy leaves brings tactile enjoyment. The scents of herbs and flavours add the element of fragrance to the garden. Wind chimes and flowing water bring the pleasure of sound, and can help people with limited visibility orient themselves in the garden.
Many plants can produce a rustling sound as the wind moves through. Bamboo has pretty foliage that seems to whispers in the wind. The bamboo stems can knock together creating a hollow sound. Sweet Corn is another good plant for creating a rustling sound – as well as being good to eat. My favorite is Love-in-a-mist, Nigella damascena; bright blue flowers which form puffy seed-heads that rattle when shaken. Placing wind chimes and water features at strategic points can help with navigation and orientation around larger gardens.
Leaves vary between plants; from rough to smooth, furry to spiky. Every texture has a purpose. For instance, furry leaves protect the plants from extremes of hot and cold weather, succulent ones help to store water and sharp spines stop the plants from being eaten by hungry insects. Lamb’s ears, Stachys byzantina; it’s easy to see how this plant got its common name when you touch the silky foliage. Silver sage, Salvia argentea; a cotton wool-like down covers its large, silvery-white leaves.
There are so many delicious plants that it’s difficult to choose just a few. As most gardeners know, our fruits, vegetables and herbs are not only tasty to us – animals and insects love them too! Many plants have great tasting fruits to attract animals to eat them and disperse their seeds for them. Spearmint, Mentha spicata; a vigorous growing herb that tastes great with peas or new potatoes! Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis; highly fragrant leaves, used to flavour meat and fish. Plant it in a place where people will brush by and release its scent. Chives, Allium schoenoprasum; as well as having delicious foliage that can be used in salads, this plant also produces pretty flowers in pink, mauve or purple.
The heady fragrances given off by flowers and leaves are wonderful to enjoy in our gardens. The smells often have a purpose too, such as attracting insects to the flowers or deterring pests from eating leaves. Curry plant, Helichrysum italicum; curry-scented leaves give off a spicy aroma on a warm, sunny day. Lavender, Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote'; the classic scent of a summer garden. Cut and dry the flowers for use indoors. Chocolate cosmos, Cosmos atrosanguineus; beautiful deep red flowers that give off a chocolate/vanilla scent are amazing.
If you know someone who used to loved gardening but has stopped because it’s all getting a bit too difficult. Why not give them a hand to design in some access features to bring the joy of gardening back to them.
Tools to help
There are loads of tools that can help as well from long-handled stuff, to things designed to be used one-handed. You can get lots of equipment in bright colours especially in yellow to help with reduce vision. There are seats with wheels, easy grip tools and easy to use hoses and water irrigation systems. Really Useful Stuff has a great range of easy to use garden equipment
Gardens can be designed to suit a specific access need such as raised beds, smooth paths, artificial grass and accessible garden furniture.
Whatever your access need – don’t stop enjoying your gardening.