Plant of the Moment – August

A Sensory Experience in the Garden

Immerse yourself in a sensory experience by filling your garden with plants that excite the senses. Whether it’s their exciting colours, evocative scents, delicious flavours, tactile appeal or just their calming rustling and movement, we benefit in many ways from having plants in our lives.

Plants can create vibrant and stimulating gardens for families to play out and entertain, using bold shapes and bright colours that stimulate the senses. Children can be encouraged outside to explore, interacting with sensory plants and the natural world around them.

In complete contrast plants can be used to make calming, private and secluded spaces. A tranquil garden that calms the senses is the perfect place to sit and relax, or just meditate and practice mindfulness … relieving stress and improving mental health and well-being.

Colour plays a big part in garden design. Bold and bright colours like yellow, orange and red are vibrant and uplifting, perfect for family gardens designed for play and entertaining. In contrast, cool colours like blue, mauve, violet and green are more calming, and good to use around areas designed for rest and relaxation.

Tall and dense boundary hedges and planting can reduce annoying man-made noise from roads and neighbours, creating a feeling of shelter and protection, but don’t ignore the importance of sound in a sensory garden either. Perhaps it’s wind gently rocking and rustling the branches of trees, a robin perched high-up entertaining us with its song, bees busily harvesting pollen and nectar from beautiful blooms, or the calming sound of trickling water.

Whether you’re creating a stimulating garden or relaxing sensory environment, all gardens have the power to heal and contribute to a healthier and happier life. And getting outside gardening provides exercise as well as a sense of achievement.

Research has highlighted how valuable contact with plants is to our health, whether through the beauty and colour we can see or non-visual stimulation by touching, tasting, smelling or hearing the natural sounds around us. A multi-sensory garden evokes a direct physiological response, both consciously and unconsciously, affecting our mood, relieving stress, evoking memories, relieving boredom, stimulating conversation, and tapping in to the healing power of nature.

Plants to Excite the Senses

Virtually every plant will stimulate one sense or another, so this month we’re celebrating plants for all their diverse sensory appeal. Whether you’re looking for something colourful, tactile, fragrant or flavoursome there are plants available to enjoy all-year-round.

Be creative by developing displays along paths and around areas you sit outside, so you can get up close and personal with the plants you choose.

Sensory plants could include:

Colourful Plants:
Highlight plants for both seasonal colour impact and year-round value. Consider colour theming plant displays, and recommending planting partners.

Tactile Plants:
Plants with soft, hairy or textured leaves, stems or bark such as Ornamental grasses, Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’, Santolina (Cotton Lavender*), Phlomis fruticosa (Jerusalem Sage), Stachys byzantina (Lamb’s Ear), Itea illicifolia.

Scented Plants:
Plants with fragrant flowers and foliage like Lavender*, scented leaf Pelargoniums, Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ (Catnip), Artemisa ‘Powis Castle’ (Wormwood)

Swaying and Rustling Plants:
Tall, graceful ornamental grasses like Miscanthus, Stipa, Pennisetum, Cortaderia (Pampas grass) and Bamboo.

Tasty Plants:
Culinary herbs like sage, thyme, chives, parsley, basil and ornamental angelica, plus fruits from trees and bushes, soft fruits like strawberries, and vegetable crops and delicious fresh salad leaves straight from the garden!

Thanks to the HTA for this information.