Friday, June 15, 2007

Friday Flowers: Sensory Gardens

Bumblebee in chives

Cathy wrote a poignant post this week about a couple of elderly ladies she observed walking in a park. Working with the elderly, I know too well the things that can go wrong as we age. I have to remember that I see the sick population and have far less interaction with those who age well.

Age related visual loss is an unfortunate reality for many people Most of us will develop cataracts in time, and these can be surgically removed. Far more devastating is macular degeneration where central vision is lost. These people may be able to see a face, but not the features. Life is a blur of shapes and there is little that can be done to reverse the condition in most cases. Overexposure to sunlight, smoking, high blood pressure and cholesterol and some vitamin deficiencies may contribute to its development. Like so many degenerative conditions, lifestyle plays a significant role in its development.

Scenes from two different sensory gardens in our city

Our downtown park has a sensory garden that was designed for the enjoyment of those who cannot see the beauty of plants and flowers. A sign with words and Braille lettering is close to the footpath. Plantings were chosen that had strong scents or special textures, and tactile features such as water, sculptures and rocks were added.

I closed my eyes when I visited the garden this week. The scent of the peonies was heavy in the evening air. Bumblebees moved among the blooms. A cardinal was singing in a nearby tree and the trickling water of the water feature added to the musical effect. The plants included Lamb's Ear, with its soft fuzzy leaves, Lavender and Bee Balm.

Lavender blooms

There is scented garden in another part of town as well. It is more of a herb garden with large groupings of lavender, chives, creeping thyme as well as fragrant ornamental flowers. It also has a lovely water fountain and comfortable benches.

Those of us who see well can also appreciate the touch and scent of flowers. I noticed a young mother allowing her toddler to smell the flowers and gently touch the leaves. I crush one or two lavender leaves in my hand each time I go in my garden as it is one of my favourite smells.

What would place and plant in a garden if you or someone you loved could not see well? Have you ever visited a sensory garden in your travels?


  1. There is one large one that I know of here in NJ, but I haven't visited it yet.

    Lavender is a favorite herb or mine too, Ruth. I think I would include some of the wondeful old fashioned roses for their sweet scent and maybe some edible flowers like nasturtiums.

  2. I have heard of sensory gardens--never been to one. I would probably pick very fragrant flowers.
    Another type of garden I have thought about trying is a moonlight garden--all white blooms.

  3. Begging your pardon but someting actially smelled like a flower in that downtown park??? The vile smell from the lake and the geese poop were all I smelled that day. >:P Gross...

    I think I'd like to see that other sensory garden. :)

  4. I would plant what I already have in my front yard: roses and catmint. I wish Madonna lilies stayed around longer, because they would also be good to plant in a sensory garden. Right now they do smell heavenly.

  5. Laura- Yes, old fashioned roses have the best scent. My, I haven't seen nasturtiums for a long time. We planted them from seed as children as they grew so quickly.

    KGMom- The moonlight gardens sound interesting. They would be great around a pool.

    Becka- Yes, the geese were disgusting and were a negative sensory experience! So many of them! But apparently they hosed things down in the park yesterday

    MaryC- Your Madonna lilies are lovely. Most perennial flowers are around for such a short time.

  6. I have never been to one but the sound of water and the scent of lilacs would be soothing.

    My husband is blind in his left eye (since birth - he was a premature twin) and has macular degeneration his right eye. A lens implant improved his vision greatly over ten years ago but his vision is always a concern, obviously. His senses have always been very keen, however.

  7. Mary- I wish your husband well with his sight! How fortunate that we have 2 of many essential parts. It is true that our other senses can become more keen with use.

  8. I have never heard of a sensory garden, but what a wonderful concept.

    I'm a very "smell-oriented" person and reading all the other comments, I'm mentally smelling all the lovely flowers: roses, lilacs, lilies and my own favorite, peonies. But I also like the "herby" smells too: catmint, beebalm, catnip, chives.


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