It was the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle who first described the five senses, namely: sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch. Complex organs, cells and mechanisms all enable people to enjoy their lives through each of those senses, they all contribute to getting a complete ‘picture.’ How, then, can one satisfy each of the five senses in a garden?
Over the next five weeks each sense will be addressed, starting with…
This is perhaps the sense that is stressed the most by the majority of people when designing their garden, and no wonder! The amazing diversity of shapes and colours of plant life mean that one is not often disappointed when observing them. The shape of a flower can add to a plant’s character in such a way that a shrub (i.e. a protea) can seem strong and robust while a tree (such as a Magnolia) can appear dainty and delicate. Most are also aware of the effect colours have, how they can evoke certain emotions that subsequently add to the overall feel of a garden. Colour will be the topic of a future article.
There are, however, certain mistakes people make when planning a garden with the sense of sight in mind. After seeing the gardens at Chelsea, Hampton Court or another flower show, some people desire to have a pristine garden with every plant in flower at all times. This is wholly unrealistic! The gardens put together by professional designers at these shows are not functioning gardens but pieces of art work. The sort of impact given by said gardens can be replicated in a personal garden, but for a very short time, meaning that for the rest of the year you are left with only foliage. Rather, one should include in their garden plants that have different flowering periods so that there is always something of interest happening in the garden.
Another mistake is that people sometimes focus purely on what a plant looks like over all else. Remember when roses and sweet peas all had the most remarkable fragrances? How many long for those days! When selecting plants for your garden, always keep in mind your other senses too.
Also, one should never focus entirely on the flower. Never forget that plants have a flowering period. This can range from a few days to a few months. Once it has flowered, the foliage is what remains. In some cases foliage also dies and you are left with bare soil in the colder months of the year. The plant is a living thing that produces a flower in order to reproduce. A flower is not the end-goal of a plant or its sole purpose of existing. When selecting plants think of how good it will look through the whole year. Keep in mind its flowers, leaves, fruits and bark (in the case of trees and shrubs). For example Malus pumila (Crab apple) will flower and fruit beautifully, the fruit will also attract birds into your garden. The barks of Betula pendula (Silver Birch), certain Acers and Cornus (Dogwood) species are all valued for their aesthetic splendour! Thinking of native species, our majestic Podocarpus falcatus (Yellowwood) can put on a magnificent display of its large yellow fleshy fruit, and any article would be remiss in failing to mention the sturdy yet matchless beauty of the Protea genus.
Every person has been given a wide beautiful array of plants to fill their garden with. Have fun with colour and plant combinations! Perhaps try having colour themes for various parts of the garden if you struggle with that. Plant specimens valued for their peculiarity. At any rate enjoy filling your garden with sights that will thrill you whenever you gaze out upon your plot!
Next week, learn how to accommodate for your sense of smell…