Have you ever walked into an outdoor space, garden, or park and instantly felt a smile of delight emerge upon your face? You may not know what made you grin, but what you do know is, you're feeling elated! Our landscape architect, Susan Combs Bauer, calls this feeling “awakening outdoor spaces through sensory design.” Susan believes the real power of landscape design is “connecting people to nature to inspire a joyful outlook and positive outcome".
SIGHT – The First Impression
Our first impression of an outdoor space or garden is how it looks. It only takes a moment to deliver that first impression. Initially, we scan our surroundings for overall color, then composition, patterns, and shapes. Many studies have shown that colors affect our health and overall attitude. By adding certain colors, we can create increased energy, calmness, cheerfulness, tranquility, or a secure sense of comfort. With just a few color adjustments, it doesn’t take long to create the perfect outdoor space for a desired mood or ambiance.
SOUND – The Sounds of Nature
Sound is often overlooked or goes unnoticed in landscape design. There is a broad range of sounds that naturally occur in nature such as, wind, rain, birds, bees, babbling brooks, and much more. However, enjoying the natural sounds of nature is not always a given. In some urban areas, there is a good chance that man-made sounds may override the natural sounds. A few ways to integrate sound is to add plants that attract songbirds, incorporate water features or plant ornamental grasses that swish in the wind.
SCENT – Uplifting Fragrances
Incorporating fragrant plants can create both a relaxing and engaging outdoor experience. Scent and fragrances are closely linked to our memories and can awaken our senses in a positive way. A well-designed garden produces flowers and scents in progression throughout the year. Some favorites are hyacinths, viburnum, lilac, lavender, mint, lemon balm and winter daphne. It is best to stagger the timing of fragrances, so they do not compete with one another.
TOUCH & TASTE – Interactive Delights
When you were a child, you probably heard the phrase - don't touch that! Beyond curiosity, I'm not sure what gives us the uncontrollable urge to touch and feel, however, touch can add a rich dimension to your landscape and garden. Some ways to add texture and touch to the landscape is through placement of plants, artwork, pebbles, large boulders, glass balls, metal, or sculptures.
Planning ahead to incorporate edible plants into your landscape takes a bit of effort, but the outcome is delicious! Many homeowners grow their edibles in neat and tidy rows. However, for something different, try intermixing savory herbs, berries, and vegetables in raised planting beds along pathways and outdoor dining areas. There is nothing more satisfying than harvesting your home-grown edibles!
Putting it all together
Awakening your personal outdoor space through sensory design not only has a positive outcome, but it also provides you a rejuvenating retreat on a daily basis. Because incorporating sensory elements can be a powerful design tool, it's not necessary to awaken all five senses, but if you do, achieving the right balance may take some finesse. Keep in mind that the art and science of sensory design may be complex depending on who your audience is such as, people with special needs or memory loss.
If you want more fun and excitement in your garden or landscape, give us a call at (425) 496-7772. Learn ways to get started at http://www.bauercombs.com/get-started.html
Author: Susan Combs Bauer, BauerCombs & Associates, Inc. “Connecting people to nature through sensory design” (425) 496-7772 www.bauercombs.com
Susan Combs Bauer, Landscape Architect www.bauercombs.com