Experience a breath-taking perennial border, a container billowing with tropical color, or the air filled with an illusive perfume; a smile emerges, both inwardly and outwardly. While some of a garden’s allure is based on horticulture, for most of us, it’s a sensory smorgasbord.

The Fragrance Factor

The idea of aromatherapy surely originated with a gardener, intoxicated by fragrant blooms. Of all the senses, this one plays with emotions, induces nostalgia and directly affects the immediate atmosphere.

The trick to planning fragrance in the garden is this: A little is good; too much, too varied, or too close, can be overwhelming. Put the gentle scents, such as old-fashioned petunias, with their spicy bouquet, close to seating areas and entry points. Move heavy perfumers, like Oriental lilies, to the back of the garden for a little breathing room.

Plan fragrant flowers appropriate to your zone. A lilac hedge is pure heaven in the Northern spring. A Southern magnolia’s sweet citrus scent announces summer’s arrival. Brush against rosemary or lavender planted along a path, and discover a warm autumn day’s virtues.

Please the Palette

Imagine summer without fresh mint, basil, or a handful of homegrown tiny tomatoes. What a loss! You don’t need the ‘lower 40’ to grow something tasty; even if your garden dwells solely within the confines of a whiskey barrel or windowbox, you have room to grow some edible delight. For pure fun, harvest homegrown nasturtium leaves and blooms, a calendula’s day-glow petals, or a handful of Johnny-jump-ups to dramatically change a spring salad’s complexion.

Remember this: To consume anything from your garden and enjoy the world’s freshest flavors safely, you must use organic practices or be totally in tune with every chemical that enters yours garden.

Nature’s Music

Life’s noise constantly surrounds us, with a constant assault on our ears and minds. Treat the garden as respite, and bring nature’s gentle notes back into your life.

  • Feed the birds. Our feathered friends offer song, idle chatter and neighborhood gossip in a most pleasing manner.
  • Add a small fountain. Splashing water calms the soul and also drowns urban noise from your personal green space.
  • Plant ornamental grasses for a wonderful rustle when the breeze passes through.
  • Use wind chimes with a thoughtful ear toward neighbors. They’re wonderful, until a stormy night.

Hands On

We know how a plant looks, how it smells, and even how it tastes. But, how does it feel? Is it smooth, silky, sticky or prickly? Take a pussy willow tree; the inevitable reflex is to run hands over the sleek, silky catkins. We can’t help ourselves.

Add a few tactile delights to your garden and be surprised how often they beckon you to touch. Perennials like lamb’s ears invite a quick pet, while moss under a tree longs for bare feet. A prickly pear cactus is very clear about its touch-feely attitude, but lovely in it’s own pointed way. If you own a stand of birch or live with a crepe myrtle tree, touch the peeling (called exfoliating) bark. It’s surface roughness and curls give way to smooth, almost silken bark below. Remember, gardening isn’t a spectator sport.

A Good Eye

The garden’s visual aspect always seems to come first. We now understand, though, that if it smells good, feels interesting, is tasty, and sounds relaxing, it will be your perfect place. However, here are a few rules for making a garden visually appealing:

  • Group plants of like kind together. Avoid the polka-dot effect. Look at a sweep of Knockout Roses, and get the drift.
  • When you have one spectacular specimen plant, like a fabulous Japanese maple (big) or an amazing orchid (small), let it stand alone and shine.
  • Decide on a color palette and stick with it. The Big Sky series of coneflowers illustrates how beautifully one color family can work together.
  • Give your garden a focal point. It may be a stunning container, a seating area, or a water feature. Give the eye somewhere to land, and everything else falls into place.