It is a golden maxim to cultivate the garden for the nose, and the eyes will take care of themselves
-Robert Lewis Stevenson
Many gardeners select plants for all season show. The visual characteristics of the garden are usually priority one in designs. But I believe gardens should do more than just look pretty. We are blessed with five senses: sight, sound, smell, touch and hearing. So if you design a garden that appeals to only one of these senses, you will inevitably miss out on a sensory feast and the joy the combinations brings.
As we enter a new season of gardening, with all five sense in mind, you can customize your garden to make it a truly personal experience. Perhaps you prefer to process sounds, finding the songs of birds, frogs and moving water a sense needed for your daily escape. Early spring the owls return to my gardens with their morning and evening calls. The sound can be mesmerizing. I find myself smiling this time of year when I hear the owl hoots as it means the weather is warming and I will soon get myself outdoors digging in the dirt. After a stressful day at work or coming home near exhaustion, the sound of moving water visa vi a small water feature or pond appeals to a more calming state. And consider the sound of the beating wings of the hummingbird collecting nectar all season. Both the sound and brilliant colors of the bird are a feast for the senses.
Plant scents can deliver a powerful quality in any garden. They not only provide you with a lovely collection of fragrances throughout the season but can bring back a fond memory or give a sense of relaxation and peace. For me, the classic peony bloom each spring brings me back to my Grandmom’s garden. She had huge clumps of these in her back yard. I recall as a child when they were in bloom she would send us home with a lovely bunch, stems wrapped in a wet paper towel and then secured with a layer of aluminum foil. I smile and remember with each bloom I see nowadays. Garden fragrance can be a mood changer. My perennial lavender is a true workhorse in the garden. It not only provides fragrance during the growing season, but the dried stems, can be collected and brought indoors for the winter months. Some of my favorite fragrant plants that do well in our region for all season include: Trees: magnolia varieties Shrubs: lilac, summersweet, Korean spice viburnum, sweetspire, rose varieties, hydrangea varieties and mockorange. Perennials: geraniums,lavender, blue flag iris, peonies, oriental lilies, snowdrift clematis, tall phlox, rosemary and mint Annuals: allyssum, dianthus, four o’clocks and flowering tobacco. And don’t forget, you want fragrance front and center in your design..so make sure your selections are nearby entries, walkways and sitting areas. Have to visit the mailbox daily? Plant some snowdrift clematis around it and enjoy the daily trip.
And don’t forget touch! That too is a powerful sensation often overlooked. Try adding varieties of ornamental grass, lambs ears, liatris, thick textures in the sedum family, along with the prickly varieties. Kids love to touch and feel. Adding this element to your garden can encourage kids interest.
So when planning your new garden this year, think about what plants you associate with each one of your senses. If sound is your desire, choose plants that attract pollinators and birds. And to achieve the sound of moving water, your feature need not be large, but well positioned in your living space to appreciate. Much like you select a perfume or after shave, personalize your plant fragrances to your liking, sweet, spicy, light or heavy.
Those of us who garden seem to have an inner desire at some level to connect with nature. Outside digging in the dirt we can often get caught up by the visual side of gardening. We want it to look beautiful. But our lives are enriched by using all the five sense. By planning a garden that incorporates all 5, you will be able to take your gardening activity to an entirely different level of joy and satisfaction this season.