“All the world’s problems can be solved in a garden” Geoff Lawton, permaculturalist.
A few months back, we posted an article on how an aspect of sustainability – health – can be improved through gardening. It can make us healthier by promoting physical health, mental health through relaxation and satisfaction, and better nutrition. The scientific evidence clearly shows that gardening can indeed feed the body, mind and spirit!
Given that gardening can offer all this, let’s look at the practical aspect – what we can do at home, in our own gardens, to realise these health benefits.
We gain many health benefits just by simply gardening, but we can ‘garden intentionally’ to create a richer experience both when we work in our garden, and when we just sit back and appreciate it (1).
There are many ways to build a garden that will nourish every aspect of our being, and what follows is one such way. Here are some simple steps to enhance your garden so that it appeals to all your senses!
A Garden for All the Senses
To really appeal to all our senses, we can build a ‘sensory garden’. Such a garden can improve the education and social interactions of children with disabilities (2). This is a garden brimming with colours, scents, textures and shapes, designed with the purpose to engage as many of our senses as possible.
We have many choices here, flowers and coloured foliage can supply a kaleidoscope of colours to feast our eyes on. Cool colours, such as blue, purple, and white tend to be calming, soothing, and promote tranquillity, whereas warm colours such as red, orange, and yellow are stimulating and promote activity. Herbs have interesting flowers too, as well as their main feature, scent! Many can be used for making fragrant teas.
Culinary herbs have rich aromatic oils which provide a wonderful scent in the garden and taste in the kitchen. Medicinal herbs come in every shape, size and colour and can be used for maintaining our health as well as providing a stunning display in the garden.
Tactile plants appeal to our sense of touch. Smooth, soft, silky leaves almost compel you to touch them! Springy groundcovers and succulent leaves add tactile interest to a garden, as do a few spiky plants. Choose plants that are resilient enough to be handled often.
Aromatic plants such as the mints and scented pelargonium are the scent mimics of the plant world, they can they copy such a wide range of scents found in the plant kingdom, and then some. Beyond the usual common mint smell, peppermint and spearmint, there are mints that smell like apples, basil, chocolate, menthol and even Eau de Cologne. Not to be outdone, there are scented pelargoniums that smell like lemon, lime, orange, rose, citronella, peppermint, coconut, nutmeg, bubblegum and even ‘Old Spice’ aftershave… Many Australian native plants also have delightful scents. We are familiar with lemon-scented eucalypts but Prostanthera sieberi (pictured at right) waft a wonderful mint scent in warm weather or when touched.
Sound is an important element, and the rustling of leaves and grasses can be quite soothing, as can be the flow of water from a fountain or water feature. Living things enliven a garden, and habitat gardening will bring in lots of life to animate the space. Use trees and plants which attract birds and bees into the garden. Add birdbaths and perches.
Remember to create a shady, quiet spot where you can sit down, relax and enjoy the garden!
By creating a space where we can reconnect with nature, we can provide ourselves the means to heal our mind, body and spirit, and a means heal the planet also. When we grow gardens, we grow life, which we care for, nurture and partake in.
1. M.M. Tyson. 1998. The Healing Landscape. McGraw Hill.
2. H. Hussein. 2010. Using the sensory garden as a tool to enhance the educational development and social interaction of children with special needs. Support for Learning 25 (1) 25-31.
Photo credits: Salvia: Phillip Eliades. Water lily: Angelo Eliades. Waratah, Geranium, Prostanthera, Stachys byzantina: Sharron Pfueller