Picture this….you walk into a beautiful garden. Your eyes immediately begin to take in the beautiful array of bold colours; from the bright golden yellow Coreopsis to the deep, violet, spiked flowers of the Salvia. You are drawn in by the overwhelming sweet fragrance of a lilac in bloom. In the background, a cluster of birds are twittering back and forth with excitement. As you stroll around the gardens you can’t help but to reach down and touch the soft, fuzzy, silver leaves of the Lamb’s Ear.
All of your senses are alert in the garden, taking in all that nature has to offer you. The garden stimulates your senses of sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. When speaking of gardens and their design, though, there is another set of 5 senses to consider:
A Sense of Entry Before you even arrive in the garden you need to create an entrance, something that invites you to enter and entices you to want to see more. This can be achieved in various ways through the use of an arbour, gate, and portal or with the use of plants. The entrance should be welcoming, giving glimpses of the garden without giving up all of the garden’s secrets.
A Sense of Welcome A garden must welcome you in. As soon as you enter the garden you should feel your blood pressure going down, feel relaxed and instantly at home. It should be a place where you would just want to find a comfortable seat in a shaded corner and spend the day. Your guests will not want to go home. If your garden is lacking organization, unity and a sense of balance it will leave you feeling chaotic and uneasy. One of the best ways to create a sense of welcome is to make sure that you add elements that stimulate the sense of sight, sound, smell, touch and taste; whether it be the soft trickle of a water feature or brushing by a hedge of lavender as you stroll along the walkway.
A Sense of Enclosure A small city garden as well as a large country estate with wide open spaces can leave you feeling exposed to your surroundings. For one to feel at home and at peace in the garden, you need something that defines the garden space; to clarify the perimeters of a garden area. When sitting out in middle of your backyard leaves you feeling totally exposed to neighbouring houses, you are unlikely to spend time enjoying your garden. Disguise any unwanted views using a mixture of privacy plants or constructed screens. A larger shade tree that provides an overhead canopy can also give you that feeling of enclosure.
A Sense of Flow The flow of a garden refers to the way that people move through the space. It can be the mere outline of the beds that visually leads the eye continuously around the garden. It can be in the form of a path that leads the eye and the feet in ways that maintains your interest and possibly offers the odd hidden surprise. The repetitive use of certain plants throughout the garden can also create a sense of flow and helps your eye to move around the yard. When the lines in the garden abruptly stop, so do your eyes. Simply flaring the line of a bed or walkway out ward instead of inward can make all the difference.
A Sense of Place A well designed garden has a sense of place. Your garden should look like it belongs there or that it always has been there. It should share some of the same characteristics of the house or its’ surroundings. For example, if you live on or near the Niagara Escarpment you may want to consider incorporating mossy, limestone rocks into your landscape. Maybe you are lucky enough to have a lake front property – adding in a dry river bed would be a way of uniting the lake and your garden. If you live in old Victorian home, it would be very difficult to create a Japanese style garden in front of it and make it look like they belong together. Take some time to reflect on the unique characteristics of your home and surroundings and draw you inspiration from them.
As we begin a new gardening season and start to work in our yards, take the opportunity to look at your garden in a new way and consider what changes you can make to create your own paradise. Remember, you never know what treasures are hidden in your own backyard until you begin to dig.