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A well-planned garden can be a feast for the senses

Tranquil zoneA part of the Lerner Garden of the Five Senses in Boothbay, Maine.Photo: AP
Tranquil zoneA part of the Lerner Garden of the Five Senses in Boothbay, Maine.Photo: AP

The silky petals of a fragrant pink shrub rose; the crunchy texture of a gravel path; a nook where grass rustles and a stream runs. What we smell, see, hear, touch and taste can make a garden walk a wonderful sensory experience.

If you’re designing a garden, consider creating one that’s a feast for one, several or all of the senses.

Public examples that can provide inspiration include the William T. Bacon Sensory Garden at the Chicago Botanic Garden, and the Lerner Garden of the Five Senses at the Coastal Maine Botanic Garden in Boothbay.

Think about what attracts you to a garden. Is it mostly the scents, or is it the visuals? Perhaps you’re moved by how elements in a garden sound. Or are you a tactile person who likes to touch every plant, rock and tree?

Make sure guests to your garden can linger and enjoy its sensory pleasures, says Margie Grace, a garden designer and owner of Grace Design Associates in Santa Barbara, California.

“There should be places to sit; places to slow down; places to feel the warmth of the sun, drink in the fragrant flowers, and hear the trickle of a stream or the music of wind chimes,” she says.

Sensory gardens are a great way to involve kids in gardening, says Emily Jackson of the Appalachian Sustainable Agricultural Project in Asheville, N.C. Plant herbs such as mint and lemon that are easy, prolific and have familiar scents. Or think about the ingredients of kids’ favourite foods the oregano, tomatoes, onions and basil that go into spaghetti sauce, for example.

Try growing some unusual things, too – carrots and potatoes in unusual colours, purple beans that turn green when you cook them, or watermelon radishes.

“Radishes are very easy to grow. Kids don’t seem to like them much except for these watermelon ones,” which are colourful and less spicy,” says Jackson, who works with an initiative which helps schools build gardens.

And make a sensory garden for kids as circuitous as you can, she says, with winding paths and structures that double as hiding places.AP


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