This world-wide state of lockdown has brought to fore so many issues; for most part, it has led to a calmer, slower and introspective behaviour.
A measured, slower pace allows the senses to open up and experience /feel the details. It lends itself to a more immersive life.
Enter Sensory Gardens.
Most gardens offer visual appeal, but a sensory garden is one that is designed to stimulate other senses as well.
Gardens are generally sensory in nature, with plants for fragrance, texture for touch, movement for sound and of course colours for stimulating the sight.
It’s been said often and proven that time spent in natural environments has a huge benefit on our health. The restorative powers of nature.
Our senses are diminished by age, a disability or simply by neglect.
These can be galvanised by providing opportunity for use.
The purpose of sensory gardens is to provide such opportunities.
If you are looking for a more regulated sensorial exploration, a sensory trail will be the one to do that.
Components of a sensory garden:
This can be categorised by elements that make up the 5 senses, the hardscape and the softscape.
A well-proportioned and harmoniously scoped garden appeals to the eye.
Visually, attributes of colour (contrast or harmonious), shape and form are to be considered.
When dealing with the aspect of colour, don’t just stop with the flowers. Foliage and bark of plants are just as useful.
Plants that provide movement such as the grasses, trees with weeping foliage, engage the senses.
Sound can be subtle or gross. These can be provided by the plants or the visiting fauna (birds, frogs, bees, crickets).
Sense of hearing can be honed by bringing attention to the rustling of leaves, the creaking of branches,
the chirping of birds (birds can be encouraged to stay by providing nectar producing plants, water bath) and such.
One of the more tantalising aspect of a sensory garden!
Planting fragrant plants (not just flowers but many plants have aromatic leaves) near seats or other pause points makes you linger and breathe deep.
Not to be overlooked would be smell of the eucalyptus leaves after rain, or the small of freshly turned soil.
Scented flowers are useful in triggering memory.
The fragrance of Jasmine, Lavender, Gardenia, citrus flowers or leaves of Geranium, Salvia, Curry Plant are some of the numerous plants to be considered.
Touch is one of the primal senses. We feel so many things to decipher the object.
How many times we reach out to touch something to experience it’s full meaning- to know if it is real or not.
Some plants just lend themselves to be felt.
The mirror-like shine of the leaves of Coprosma, the velvet of Lamb’s Ears, the rasp of the Paper Daisy, the fleshy leaves of a succulent.
But naturally, all edible plants and fruits!
Hardscape for sensory garden
Using non-living elements to stimulate the senses, adds to the overall scheme.
Elements such as pebbled paths for tactile experience; walls, benches, paving, decking are useful to assist in the sensory garden for colour and texture.
Water features and wind chimes to add to the sense of sight and sound.
A moulded timber bench or a sculpture in the garden could also be elements inviting touch.
Softscape for sensory garden
Plants to provide with sensory signals of sight (vivid or mild colours and everything in between), smell (fragrant or pungent),
sound (rustling, creaking), touch (from velvety soft to shiny to rough) and taste (edible).
If space is limited, sensory gardens can incorporate hanging plants and vertical gardens.
A big consideration would be to avoid toxic/poisonous plants.
Sensory gardens for Aged Care, Dementia Care, Boarding Houses and Schools
Aged care centres, Dementia centres and Boarding houses will greatly benefit from having sensory gardens. Smell, sight and touch are powerful triggers for memory.
Research has shown that daily routine of gardening was the single biggest risk-reduction activity that people with dementia could partake in.
With the new normal still embracing isolation and social distancing, residents of boarding houses and aged care centres
are unable to go out and experience what was considered normal, pre-Covid.
This makes it rather more significant to provide for well thought gardens and outdoor spaces.
And a sensory garden will provide that added advantage.
Productive gardens in schools are hugely successful and popular. Results from planting herbs and plants like tomatoes, strawberries, chillies, are readily perceivable in a relatively short time.