Creating a sensory garden series – smell
When we think of sensory gardens, scent is usually the first thing on our minds. Whether you catch the drift of a sweet floral fragrance or the more sharp smell of herbaceous plants, scented trees and shrubs can be a real sensory treat. We would recommend planting scented trees and shrubs near a seating area so that you can unwind with the drifting fragrances; alternatively, plant your scented shrubs along the edges of a path so that they can greet guests as they pass by.
Different flowers, big and small, have different scents. Some are sweet, light and fruity and others are much more pungent and heavy. Either way, flowers are a great way of filling your garden with fragrance.
If you have room for a tree, one of the most deliciously sweet fragrances has to come from the Cytisus battandieri, which is more commonly known as the Pineapple broom tree. This Morrocan native has vivid yellow flowers that smell like cooked pineapples: a real treat for the senses! Prunus ‘Fragrant Cloud’ is a prolific flowerer in spring and the flowers do not have the usual light fragrance of a flowering cherry tree, but instead they have a much stronger and richer floral scent. Of course, we can’t not mention magnolia flowers in this category; magnolia flowers are large and have a bold fragrance that varies between different varieties.
If you want a fragranced shrub then an unusual choice comes with Hamamelis mollis - Chinese Witch Hazel. The striking yellow flowers appear in winter and have a strong fragrance; if you want to achieve year-round interest then this is the perfect plant. Viburnums are another winning winter option for fragrance and the flower heads have a light, often honey-like, scent. Perhaps one of the most obvious choices is planting a lavender, but it should not be over-looked as it is highly popular for a reason. The deep-violet flowers are aromatic and attractive to the senses of both humans and insects alike; we really like lavenders surrounding a seating area as you can sit back and soak up the scent whilst insects and bees flock round the flowers.
Foliage is often aromatic, rather than sweet, but it can be a real delight to walk by on a windy day. One of the classic choices for aromatic foliage is the Laurus nobilis, also known as the Bay Laurel. The bay leaves are a popular choice in a herb garden and they smell even better when you pick one up and crush in it your hand. Equally, another popular plant is rosemary and we sell Miss Jessopp’s Upright’ which has a pungent scent and is great for planting in a rockery. Rosemary has many benefits and is proven to reduce levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. As well as that, rosemary repels mosquitos and other garden pests so it really will work wonders for your garden. If you’ve got room for a larger option, a eucalyptus tree can add structure, colour and foliage fragrance; the rounded leaves have a light menthol-like scent which is accentuated further when the leaves are crushed.
No matter what you choose, planting a few fragranced trees and shrubs can make your garden all the more inviting for both you and for wildlife.
Creating a sensory garden series – sight
Creating a sensory garden is so much more than just having the odd scented summer flowers around your garden; with careful consideration you can create a tranquil outdoor space that engages the senses all year round. When you think of a sensory garden, you need to think beyond just a ‘scented’ garden. Sensory gardens should evoke a range of your senses and it is as much about the colours that you put together as it is about the fragrances that you have. We will be releasing a series of sensory garden blog posts to guide you through creating your own sensory space. Today’s post is about sight and we’ve put together some tips and suggestions for designing a sensory garden that is appealing to the eyes all year round.
A well-designed garden is something that takes a lot of time and a lot of careful planning. The scope of this blog post do not stretch to designing your garden for you, but the intention is to get you to think about how you want your garden to look and how you think it will work best for your senses.
You can take various approaches when it comes to how your garden looks. Some gardeners like a theme: whether that’s through planting with a set colour scheme or planting contrasting colours all around your garden, you need to think about the overall look that you want to achieve.
If you’re wanting structure then you can go about it in several ways. Consider the shapes and silhouettes you want to create through planting and that will help you decide. You can plant trees that grow tall at the back of borders and these can add height and provide screening to make you feel like your garden is your own tranquil retreat that is cut off from the rest of the world. We would recommend bamboo for screening in a sensory garden because they hit two senses: sight with colour (particularly the phyllostachys nigra – black bamboo) and with the structure and sound with the rustling of the light and papery leaves in the wind.
You can also get structure from weeping trees. There’s a whole host of them on our website and they are perfect for achieving that year-round sensory garden because the pendulous frames of weeping trees look delightful when topped with snow. We would recommend something like Prunus Pendula Rubra for a small garden, Betula pendula ‘Youngii’ for a medium sized garden and Salix Chrysocoma for a larger garden.
Climbers are also a great choice for structure as you can add a pergola or some trellis and have the beautiful vines of the climber weave their way around the structures. Many climbers also offer fragrance and colour too, so they make the perfect choice for a sensory garden. You can view our range of climbers here.
Your outdoor space needs to appeal to your sight and colour is one great way to do that. Ideally, you want to ensure that you have colour all year round, so pick your trees and shrubs carefully to make sure that you have different coloured interest at different times of the year.
In winter, evergreen varieties are great staples and Photinia Pink Marble (Pink Marble Cassini) is an outstanding evergreen. This delightful shrub has leaves that emerge a vivid pink colour and mature to a rich green with splashes of cream; there’s nothing nicer than bright colours in a sleeping winter garden. Equally, if you want to plant a shrub, Escallonia Gold Ellen is another fantastic evergreen and the golden leaves really brighten up a bed or border over winter. You can also plant a winter-flowering tree like Prunus Autumnalis Rosea which flowers over from autumn until early spring.
For spring colour, you are truly spoilt for choice! So many varieties burst to life in spring and flowers are often abundant at that time of year. Any magnolia tree will put on a good show and we like Magnolia soulangeana as it produces delightfully large flowers for a comparatively small tree.
Summer colour can come from leaves, fruit or flowers. It could come from the deep purple leaves of the Betula Purpurea or from the glossy fruits of a cherry tree like Prunus Stella. Equally, summer flowers can really steal the show and if you need something small in size but with mighty flowers then a lovely hydrangea will do the job: the Hydrangea paniculata Little Lime is a great choice.
Autumn is a special time of year for many gardeners and the final bursts of colour from deciduous trees makes for a wonderful display. Acer trees are synonymous with and, if you have the room, planting a selection of acer trees can really make a fantastic scene in autumn. The burning red leaves of the Acer rubrum sit really well alongside the crisp yellow shades of the Acer Kelly’s Gold. If you haven’t got room for an Acer, the compact ‘Sorbus Autumn Spire’ features mustard-yellow berries and deep red leaves in autumn, so that really does add a lot of colour without taking up a lot of space.
Whatever you decide to plan for sight-appeal, remember that you want to create an outdoor space that looks great all year round. After all, going out in winter to prune your roses and plant your spring bulbs can be made a lot more enjoyable with some winter flowers surrounding you!