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Sensory Gardens: Nature for All the Senses

Sensory Gardens: Nature for All the Senses

Spring has sprung, and the garden awaits.  It’s that time of year again.  The sun is out and it’s time to get outside and exercise our green thumbs.  This year, as you plant your own garden or visit others, consider the various senses that a garden can speak to.

Sight:  We all know that gardens can be quite beautiful.  The many shades of green in the leaves, the vast cornucopia of colours, shapes and sizes of flowers are a sight to behold.  From the tallest pine tree to the smallest moss a garden is a feast for the eyes.  Now close your eyes and think about all the other gifts a garden gives.  This idea is especially significant when one of your senses is failing.  As our eyes grow weak we must find new ways of enjoying these simple pleasures.  Today, we will rediscover the beauty of a garden with all our other senses.

Sound:  Eyes closed and listen carefully.  Do you hear that?  The rustling of a soft, warm breeze blowing through the leaves of the trees.  The scurrying of little creatures through the grass.  The chattering of squirrels as they argue over the best territory.  How about those bird songs, or just the simple flapping of their wings?  The buzzing of the insects as they go about their business.  The fields really are alive with the sound of music and your garden is an orchestra of a million musicians playing harmoniously together.

Touch:  Now feel the soft or smooth or rough leaves of the plants around you.  Careful of the thorns.  Petals of flowers can feel as soft as silk or as smooth as velvet.  So many textures to get your hands dirty with.  Feel the cool earth in your hands as you dig through the soil.  The texture of the dirt can vary so much from place to place.  There are very sandy, light soils, heavy, clay soils, and the perfect soft, moist soil that is perfect for you plantings.

Scent:  Now take a deep breathe.  Can you smell the variety of the plants around you?  The freshly mowed lawn – the scent of green.  The sweet and sometimes bitter scents of the flowers.  Some leaves will give off very distinctive smells if you rub the leaf between your fingers and then smell your fingers.  Some have very peppery scents while others smell minty or sweet.  Try it out and see what scents you can find as you explore your garden.

Taste:  Probably my favorite part of a garden.  Vegetables, fruit, herbs, and even some flowers can help feed your family and save you money.  There is nothing better than freshly picked produce from your very own garden.

Your own Garden

If you have even a little bit of space you can grow your own garden and the benefits of this simple practice are immeasurable.  Gardening has been proven to be a relaxing way of spending your time.  Something about being in nature acts like a therapy for the stressed mind and body.  A simple container garden on a balcony will do.  I remember my first mini garden – just one pretty planter with about four plants.  I was so proud of that exercise.  The flowers were beautiful and the high grass in the center of the pot made a wonderful whirring sound when the wind blue through it.  It wasn’t much, but with my brown thumb it was

Gardens to Visit

I recently visited the University of Alberta’s Botanic Garden with my Step-Mother and artist sister, Angela.  Angela was excited to show me a section of the garden made especially for people with varying disabilities.  The sensory garden is a small raised bed garden toward the back of the large complex.  Each section of this very special garden is labelled with the different senses.  The taste garden has plants that you can nip of a leaf and have a chew.  The touch garden has many different textures for you to experience.  This is not the only garden of it’s type, there are botanic gardens all over the world that offer the same or similar garden experiences.

Forget Disneyland – my happiest place on earth is the Botanic Gardens in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  I spent many happy days touring the palm house, walking the steps of the rose trellis, and even watching my Great-Uncle Harry play lawn bowls.  The Ulster museum was right next door and another greenhouse called the Tropical Ravine is also on the grounds.  For those of you who enjoyed Jamie Dornan of 50 shades fame, this is his neck of the woods as well.  Recently a tv series called “The Fall” was filmed starring Jamie as a serial killer with Gillian Anderson playing the top cop out to bring him to justice.  It was a great show and right at the beginning of the series, Jamie visits the Botanic Gardens and you can see the palm house right behind him and the tulip beds to his side.

So whether you have a green thumb and are out in your garden all day long enjoying the simple pleasure of gardening or are thinking of how you will spend your next day off, consider a garden and the many and varied sensual pleasures it may bring.

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