Thursday 14th October is World Sight Day, a global event bringing awareness to vision impairment, blindness and eye health. For humans, sight can be the sense we most strongly rely on to the extent that we perhaps may not give enough attention to the joy our other senses can bring to us.
Blue-tit on flowering honeysuckle: Ray Kennedy (rspb-images.com)
When we talk about gardens and especially wildlife gardens, we focus very much on the look of the garden, how neat and tidy it is or scruffy it might look if we let areas grow "wild". We talk predominantly about colours, the visual look of textures and types of planting schemes and world sight day is actually a great time to consider the other senses we can engage with in a sensory garden. When you create a sensory garden, there are four other senses to consider:
SOUND: plants that make lovely rustling sounds include grasses, bamboo and honesty when the seed heads flutter in the breeze, and many trees have loose leaves that move quickly and make calming rustling sounds. Bird song really brings a garden to life and along with the bird feeders, there are many bird friendly plants to consider to attract them in. Water features also create relaxing sounds and may benefit wildlife as well if there is access for them to bathe or drink. Wind chimes can also add some additional sonic charm to an outside space.
SMELL: How often to you smell a plant in the garden centre before you buy it? I must admit, I rarely do this so am now going to perhaps let my nose make a few choices while I'm looking for something to fill a space. There are even shrubs and plants that smell fragrant through the winter.
TOUCH: Fluffy Pennisetum fountain grass heads feel soft to the touch, as do lambs ear plants with their super soft hairy leaves. Teasels are fascinating to squeeze, carefully! non-prickly hedging like yew can be a pleasure to run your hands over and many smaller trees have tactile bark.
TASTE: Well, there's an amazing array of fruiting trees and plants, vegetables and herbs to grow to harvest and eat from your garden and you might like to consider growing plants that feed the wildlife too like: shrubs with berries for birds,
Our gardens do very much engage all our senses when we are out there and it's relaxing and good for the mind to sometimes stop and consider the other four that can be overshadowed by sight. It's also worth remembering that so much of our garden nocturnal wildlife like hedgehogs and bats rely much more on their other senses like smell or hearing than their sight to navigate about.
So even though it's world sight day, it's a great time to appreciate all our senses, especially in the garden.
For more inspiration on wildlife gardening, the Flatford Wildlife Garden, is currently open every day until 2nd November from 10.30am – 4.30pm. Entrance to the garden is free and well-behaved dogs on leads are welcome. Car parking is £5 at the Flatford National Trust car park and this gives you access to the stunning countryside walks around Flatford and Dedham Vale in Constable Country.
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