Reach out and touch your garden

Thrive gardening
A tactile garden helps the senses engage with nature

Sensory gardens appeal to all our senses – sight, smell, sound, taste and touch – helping to reduce stress and anxiety and providing us with a place that helps encourage wellbeing and mindfulness. 

A fragrant garden is familiar to many, but in these social distancing times being able to touch and feel plants and structures is also beneficial.

Creating gardens with plants and features that say ‘touch me’ encourages interaction and can also be a good way to practice mindfulness meditation.

Mindfulness concentrates your mind on the ‘here and now’ and is a proven way of dealing with mild depression or anxiety.  Focus on the what the plants feel like – not just their fragrance when touched – from leathery and lacey through to soft and smooth. You can also mix plants that are great to touch with tactile hard landscaping elements such as a water feature, smooth polished round pebbles or the glazed ceramics.

Some top touching plants and features to consider would be …

Leaves – try Stachys byzantina, commonly known as Lambs Ear.  Its soft, downy, furry silver-grey leaves area favourite amongst gardeners who tend to use it for ground cover in rich soil. As a contrast there is Acuba japonica (Japanese laurel) which has smooth, glossy leathery leaves.

Flowers – who can resist touching a bottlebrush Callistemon cintrinus – bundles of tiny delicate stamen flowers form a brush that’s soft to touch – or the soft paper-thin petals of a poppy Papaver orientale.

Grasses – run your hand over the arching, threadlike leaves of feathery Stipa tenuissima  also known as Mexican feather grass or the more robust drought proof ornamental Festuca glauca with thread like blue foliage that forms dense mounds. 

Bark – tree bark can also provide a tactile experience especially when it’s the stunning flowering cherry Prunus serrulate with mahogany coloured bark that peels away in bands round the trunk.

Landscaping – you can easily vary the textures in your garden by choosing different hard landscaping options.  If you have smooth pebbles surrounding a water feature that you can run your hand over and through, then you could place lichen-covered rocks in another area of the garden.

Our general wellbeing is intrinsically linked to the natural world which is why Beech Hill-based Thrive – the gardening for health charity – has developed a Gardening Club. 

It includes fortnightly tips on getting the most out of your garden, whatever you age or ability, and information on how gardening can keep you healthy and feeling good.

For more details, or to sign up, log on to www.thrive.org.uk/get-involved/keep-in-touch/subscribe-to-gardening-club

Thrive is the UK’s leading provider of social and therapeutic horticulture programmes using gardening to bring about positive changes in the lives of people living with disabilities, ill-health or mental health issues, or who are isolated, disadvantaged or vulnerable. www.thrive.org.uk

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