Since ancient times, many countries have realised the power of gardens to heal with trees and flowers, water and more specifically medicinal planting.
Gardens were used to restore the sick back to health, and were vital in that process with their beautiful settings for patients to begin their mental and physical recovery. Often parts of hospitals originally, these are now becoming part of many treatment centres once again.
The same principle can apply to our own gardens; with the pace and stress of our lives today, we need to create that refuge in our own homes. It can help us both mentally but also physically as we ‘garden’, to create and maintain our space for contemplation and relaxation allowing us to feel safe, sheltered and protected.
Our mood can be improved after spending time outside, going from stressed and anxious to becoming calmer, with energy restored through our positive reaction to nature.
A sensory garden will appeal to the five senses of sound, sight, touch, smell and taste using plants and other elements.
Create your own healing garden
Size doesn’t matter, if your garden is large or small you can still transform your space using the elements of water, scent, colour and sound with planting schemes to create a “sensory” healing garden.
Keep things simple, you are trying to create a restful space.
If space allows, create different ways to experience the garden, allowing you to choose a different route to walk, stopping to sit and reflect on one of several seats. Each giving a unique perspective and feel, some secluded other more open spaces.
Address the five senses:
Choose plants that smell good. Walking through a path lined with lavender, over a bed of thyme or brushing against fresh mint are all memorable. Add scented climbers near your seating areas – breathing the heady aroma of evening jasmine feels so good.
Have things to touch – grasses are tactile and good to run your fingers through, while the shiny bark of Prunus serula is just meant to be stroked.
The gentle noise of trickling water is one of the most restful sounds, so include a water feature. Remember, too, the sound of plants rustling in a gentle breeze, most commonly bamboo or ornamental grasses.
Colours impact how you feel. Warm colours, such as reds, oranges and yellows can make you more active while the cooler colours of blues, purples and white are more soothing and tranquil. Green is found to be the the most restful colour of all (especially grass green) renewing and restoring energy.
The satisfaction of growing and harvesting the edible plants, fruits and vegetable and herbs and spices is often under estimated; if you don’t have the time or space for a dedicated kitchen garden just include some amongst the flowers.
As you will want to use your garden all year round, make sure there are plants that look good in winter, too.
Light the garden and give it heat – a simple firebowl with logs will let you stay out later into the evening.
But above all create something that you love and want to spend time in!
This article first appeared in the Autumn 2015 edition of Cotswold Homes.