Garden Ideas for Sensory Stimulation

As gardeners, you know plants benefit the mind and body. The data to support this claim has rapidly grown over the years! I really like the summary by the University of Washington, Green Cities: Good Health.  This site curates all the original citations and does a very good job at providing summaries. If you are looking for the information in a multi-media ready, visually friendly way, #PlantsDoThat by the National Initiative for Consumer Horticulture has things wonderfully packaged.  Jump to those sites to learn how plants can improve our well-being.

Perhaps it is just me, but self isolation and the looming existential dread is increasing stress, anxiety, and depression. Also, for many of us, we are experiencing an increase in screen time as once face to face work is now done virtually by computer.  I’ve been turning to my garden for my own personal therapeutic needs and it has me reflecting on my favorite things for sensory stimulation. It is through our 5 senses we take in the garden- touching, smelling, hearing, tasting, and seeing is how we properly stimulate our brain in order to get the benefits from plants.  Here’s my personal list of favorite things in my garden:

Taste

Stevia may not be much to look at but it’s what is on the inside that counts. When I prompt someone to crush a leaf and taste it, I always enjoy watching their facial reaction go from uncertainty to a sweet surprise. Often sold as the “green packet” sweetener if you use sugar substitutes.

Touch

I noticed this year that every time I walk past a White Fir (Abies concolor) I have to touch it. At a glance, you may think it to be a prickly blue spruce. Upon contact, it is so soft and huggable.  Some people describe me in a similar way.

Sound

I could talk about the sound of wind blowing through grass and leaves.  Or, turning dried seed pods into rattles. Instead, I’ll punt and highlight my water feature that I made from a water trough.  It is on my patio and works at screening out the sound of traffic and loud neighbor kids.

Sight

The dark purple iridescent leaves of Strobilanthes is a stand out in all of my containers. It works well as a stand alone container or when paired with other plants to form a vignette.  This image is from my purple/pink/white theme from a few years back. Speaking of neighbor kids, that’s not a parking spot!

Smell

Personally, my nose does not register a lot of scents.  However, last year I very intentionally planted rosemary (along with fiber optic grass and Silver Falls™ dichondra) in a basket on my arbor.  It is at nose height and was something I petted and sniffed nearly every time I walked by it.