Exploring the Sensory Garden

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Robert Hardy Garden Design

www.hardygardens.co.uk

@hardy_gardens

Any keen gardener will tell you how spending time in their garden promotes feelings of wellbeing.  The latest research points to a range of health benefits; the work-out we get in these so-called ‘green gyms’, or how gardening can reduce the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.  It is even believed that exposure to certain microbes in the soil can improve our emotional wellbeing. 

Naturally, we can’t help but feel more alive when we hear the rustle of wind in the leaves, see the light reflected off a mirror-like pool, or run our hands through soft fronds of grass. A garden is a place that can delight the senses.

In a recent project in Cheshire, Robert Hardy Garden Design worked with France + Associates to create a sensory garden; one that consciously stimulates the senses in an orchestrated way. The garden is designed to marry aesthetic, practical and therapeutic qualities, meeting the specific needs of the client.

So what makes a successful sensory garden?  As with any garden, putting people at the heart of the design is key.  An effective sensory design will allow for gentle exploration rather than assaulting the senses.  Creating distinct zones, each focusing on an individual sense, can bring clarity.  This can be carefully balanced with areas which blend different sensory elements to create intrigue and interest.

Once the overall structure is in place, the choice of plants, a considered palette of materials and distinctive elements such as a water feature, can all heighten the sensory experience.  Here are a few simple suggestions of things to try in your own space to delight and excite the senses.

Smell – scent in a garden can be an evocative and arresting feature as well as attracting pollinators.  Consider the warm scent of Lavender on a summer’s evening, or the heady fragrance of winter flowering jasmine when snow is on the ground. Think about their location. The scent of a mock orange blossom brushed at a garden gate is a delightful example.

Sight – as well as using colour to catch the eye, adding movement in a garden can produce a stunning visual effect. Try soft grasses such as Stipa tenuissima and let the wind make waves through the planting.

Touch – think about textures across the whole garden. Create contrasts such as the velvety soft leaves of Stachys next to the crisp, serrated foliage of Melianthus, or polished paving next to crunchy gravel.

Sound – whilst a grand fountain might be out of place in a typical domestic garden, there are affordable and modest water features available that can bring the calming sound of flowing water to your space.

Taste – even if you don’t want a full-blown allotment, edible plants can enhance your garden.  Mint, chives or rosemary are easy to cultivate and can provide a herby punch to your recipes.  A rhubarb plant will enjoy a shady corner or experiment with lettuces planted in amongst the flowers. 

Why not give these ideas a go and create your own sensory space?  For more inspiration, visit www.hardygardens.co.uk

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