Feeling the garden

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As gardeners wait for the earth to warm, Pete Harcom considers ways to make an outdoor space stimulating and healing for every sense

Chocolate cosmos – always a favourite with children

As I wait for Spring to arrive, I have been thinking about making a part or the whole of a garden into a sensory garden – to appeal to as many of the senses as possible.
These gardens and types of plants can be very beneficial for so many, in particular people suffering with dementia. Being able to experience colour, touch and scent can help inspire recollection of memories. These types of gardens can also help children with special educational needs, including autism. The RHS has an excellent guide on its website on how to create a sensory garden – it’s definitely worth a read.
Briefly, here are just a few ideas (plants with a * are those which can be easily grown from seed).

Sight
Choose bold leaved and architectural plants:
Sunflowers* – a bright, bold flower that can grow 30cm in height in a week in ideal conditions
Love-in-a-mist* – sun-loving, bright blue flowers
Chameleon plant – three-toned foliage that smells of lemons
Swiss chard* ‘Bright Lights’ – brightly coloured stems and foliage
Heuchera – cultivars are available in many vibrant colours and shades from lime green to dark purple

Taste
Herbs are always an easy win for this one!
Spearmint
Rosemary
Chives – this plant also produces pretty pink, mauve or purple flowers
Nasturtium*
Wild strawberry*
Pot marigold* – the yellow-orange petals brighten up any salad
Sweet basil*

Smell
Curry plant – the fragrant leaves give off a spicy aroma on a warm, sunny day
Lavender – relaxing, fresh aroma and flowers
Chocolate cosmos – the beautiful, maroon flowers give off a chocolate/vanilla scent, and are always a big hit with the kids!
Stocks* – these traditional cottage garden plants are highly-scented summer flowers in a variety of pink, white and red shades
Lemon scented geranium – crinkly leaves that smell delicious when rubbed
Oregano/wild marjoram* – not just aromatic leaves, it also produces pretty pink or white flowers in midsummer
Sound
Enjoy the bees buzzing, the birds singing, the sounds of the wind rustling through grasses and plants. Add a water feature or wind chimes to enhance the sounds in your garden.
Greater quaking grass, Briza maxima* – a grass that rustles in the wind with nodding, lantern-like heads of flowers
Miscanthus Nanus Variegatus – pretty, rustling bamboo-like foliage
Sweetcorn* – another rustler, and it’s good to eat too!
Bamboo Phyllostachys – pretty foliage that whispers in the wind
Fountain grass – long, evergreen grass with bristly spikelets

Touch
Lamb’s ears, Stachys – the downy leaves resemble the ears of a lamb
Silver sage, salvia: large, silvery–white leaves covered in cotton wool-like down
Jerusalem sage – soft, downy leaves and stems with pretty, yellow flowers

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