Gardening and the Senses

Gardening and the Senses

While staying Safer at Home, we can’t help but notice the changes happening outside, the reminders that spring has indeed sprung: birds chirping, a warm breeze blowing, fragrant flowers blooming, and more. Use the steps below to take a few moments to sit outside and appreciate the natural world around you by awakening your five basic senses.

Mindfulness Through Your Senses

Find a comfortable seat in a place surrounded by nature, place your hands on your lap, take a few deep inhales and exhales, and tune in.

Sight: Slowly look all around, panning your gaze by turning your head. Notice the details of the natural world and the variations in colors, shapes, forms, shadows, and light.

Sound: Now close your eyes and observe the sounds in your environment—birds singing, bees buzzing, leaves rustling. Rather than fixating on one, simply immerse yourself in all the sounds around you.

Smell: Take a deep inhale and enjoy any fragrances lingering in the air, possibly from nearby flowers, grass, trees, or food.

Touch: Turn your attention to the sensations in and on your body. Notice the ground beneath you and observe any sensations on your skin, such as a slight breeze or the warmth of the sun.

Taste: Now turn to your kitchen or home garden and savor a snack. Close your eyes to relish the flavors on your taste buds.

Garden Spotlight: The Burr Terrace Garden

The Burr Terrace Garden officially opened at Cheekwood on Sunday, October 15, 1972 in memory of Elizabeth Parker Burr by her daughter, Mrs. Ruth Puryear. Ruth emphasized two main concepts for the garden’s design to landscape architect, W. James Coile: to stimulate the senses and provide accessibility for the differently abled. Initially, a heavy emphasis was placed on special considerations to benefit people with visual impairments. Coile consulted the principal and superintendent of the Tennessee School for the Blind about featuring plants to stimulate all the senses into the original design. The petite knot and surrounding beds of the Burr Garden originally contained culinary, medicinal, and other “household” herbs, as well as other aromatic and textural plant material. Braille labels and raised beds also provided more accessibility to people with visual impairments.

Interested in making your garden more accessible and sensory-friendly?

– Check out our tip sheet here!

– Consider raising the soil by building a raised bed garden. Watch a how-to video here!

– Plant sensory-friendly plants that have high contrasting colors like daffodils, rainbow chard, marigolds, pansies, or sunflowers. Choose plants that have fun textures such as wooly lamb’s ear or aloe vera. Enjoy herbs or aromatic plants like jasmine, sweet peas, lavender, or lemon balm.

The Burr Terrace Garden: Inspiration from Italy

The Burr Garden was built in the likeness of The Botanical Garden of Padua (Orto Botanico di Padova), which was constructed in 1542 in Padua, Italy. It is the oldest surviving botanical garden in the world. For over five centuries, the garden in Padua has been devoted to research, teaching, and circulating scientific and horticultural knowledge to the public, originally with an emphasis on medicinal plants. Similarities between the Burr Terrace garden and the Orto Botanico di Padova include:

– The rounded hardscaped garden outlines
– The organic shapes of the beds
– Water feature
– The use of focal points to draw one in further into the rounded landscape

Creative Design for Smaller Spaces

Today, the Burr Terrace Garden represents phases in time as they relate to historical gardening themes. Within the entrance garden, visitors will find present-day horticulture trends, often corresponding to the seasonal display design found in the Bradford Robertson Color Garden. Here the original intent still holds true as “a garden to exemplify good landscape and gardening practices.” Visitors are exposed to a variety of plant combinations and creative designs for a smaller scale, appropriate for their home gardens.

Home Garden Challenge

Show us what your sensory-friendly home gardens look like! Tag @cheekwood on Instagram and use #HomeGardens.

Sensory Gardening Word Search and Crossword Puzzle

Sharpen your sense of sight with a word search or test your memory with a crossword!

Word Search   Crossword

Image: Unknown Reprinted in “L’Orto botanico di Padova nell’ anno 1842” by Roberto De Visiani (1842)


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