“Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” 

John Muir

sensory gardens

There are many aspects of a garden which can excite or calm the senses. Colors and smells are some of the ones we think about right away. One of the benefits of sensory gardens is that they are designed with the purpose of encouraging a visitor to be exposed to a range of experiences which can activate and stimulate certain senses.

hear see smell taste touch

Many people find that sensory gardens provide them with a better way to fully and intentionally connect with nature, while taking in its many healing properties. As we design eli’s garden of healing, we look to incorporate these five elements into the design process. The final mix of plants in our garden is likely to include those mentioned here but will be dependent on the site we ultimately identify for the garden.

HEAR: Ornamental grass can be soothing to listen to as the wind blows the blades of grass across each other. Another common plant incorporated into hearing potions of sensory gardens can be bamboo. Unlike some of the other senses which a sensory garden tries to invoke, hearing can also be introduced to a sensory garden through the use of chimes or water. Fountains or small streams can be a nice way to enjoy the sound of moving water while sitting and relaxing in the garden

SEE: During the spring months bleeding hearts are a welcome plant to excite the eyes. Bleeding hearts are beautiful to look at as we emerge from winter and begin to enjoy gardens. In a healing garden they can be an especially sweet reminder of those we love. Plants with unique shapes, colors, height, and texture are great ways to invite visitors to explore a garden and look around. Outside of plants, watching pollinators such as butterflies or bees buzzing from bud to bud can be an enjoyable way to get lost in the sights of a garden.

SMELL: Herbs such as thyme, rosemary and sage all work wonderfully in the scent portion of a sensory garden. As you rub your fingers on the leaves, the oils of the plants release fragrance into the air, and also your fingertips. Many people enjoy picking a twig of rosemary to smell as they walk through a garden, while enjoying the energy the scent brings to them.

TASTE: With their big purple flowers, chives can be equally pretty to look at, as they are tasty to eat (if you like onion flavors!). As an early spring bloom, these can be complimented with other edible plants such as components of a tea garden or with annuals such as nasturtium .

TOUCH: Lambs ear is a great example of a plant which is often featured in touch portion of sensory gardens. The leaf and stem are so soft to the touch, offering a calming feeling when brushing your hand across the plant. Parents especially love this plant because of how gentle, but also resilient, it is for children to touch. Touch is all about texture. Some people enjoy soft, while others like leathery or pointy plants. The ways touch can be built into a sensory garden seem almost as endless as seeing plants and appreciating color and shape.

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