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Give Your Garden Sensory Appeal

Turn your garden into a sensory delight

By Susan W. Capparelle and Anne Di Francesco
  • Photo: Hoffman Landscapes, Inc.

    Lifestyle trends research shows that many of us are yearning to return to a simpler, more sensory time and place, a place where we can hear the trickle of a fountain, watch flames flicker on an outdoor fireplace, taste dishes brightened with herbs we’ve grown ourselves—and of course, stop to smell the roses. Here we show how to appeal to all five senses, turning your garden into a sensory delight.

    Uplit Trees

    Outdoor night lighting can create a feast for the eyes, bringing out  intriguing shadows and intense highlights. Details never noticed before suddenly come alive. Advancements in new technologies use lower voltage, including solar power and LED landscape lighting, making the cost more affordable. A recent study conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects revealed outdoor lighting is increasingly in demand.

    Here, uplighting glows on trees from below and within, to magical effect.

    The night lighting elements and systems depicted in the next few slides include products from Malibu and Lutron, among others.

  • Photo: Hoffman Landscapes, Inc.

    Inviting Path

    Lights along a path bring out the intricacies of the stone and make the home look warm and inviting.

  • Photo: Hoffman Landscapes, Inc.

    Lovely at Twilight

    The lighting of the steps and paths not only promotes safety but also conveys a sense of arrival at the home’s entrance.

  • Photo: Hoffman Landscapes, Inc.

    Living Sculpture

    Here night lighting gives the trees a sculptural quality and bathes the home in welcoming tones.

  • Photo: Hoffman Landscapes, Inc.

    A Sense of Ease

    Soft lighting on the patio gives a sense of ease and warmth to relaxing and entertaining. As the sun sets and the fireflies come out, it also extends the hours that can comfortably be spent outside.

  • Photo: Hoffman Landscapes, Inc.

    Everything is Illuminated

    Uplighting both the dramatic fireplace and the trees in the background produces cinematic results.

  • Photo: Hoffman Landscapes, Inc.

    Texture and Pattern

    Night lighting brings out the warm colors, textures and patterns of the stone fireplace.

  • Photo: Hoffman Landscapes, Inc.

    Classic Outdoor Kitchen

    Outdoor kitchens with the latest accoutrements are increasingly popular in homes across America. With places to cook, set food down, relax, socialize, and even store cooking and food items, there’s no longer any need to run into the house for supplies or ingredients while hosting weekend parties. Everything’s at your fingertips.

    A white pergola and mostly green plant palette give this outdoor kitchen area a classic look. See some new kitchen features on the next slides.

  • Photo: Kalamazoo Gourmet Kitchens

    Countertop Pizza Oven

    A stainless steel gas-fired pizza oven from Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet reaches high temperatures quickly—Old World taste with contemporary convenience.

  • Photo: Kalamazoo Gourmet Kitchens

    Rustic Countertop 

    The countertop provides room for plenty of fixings in nature’s rainbow of colors, echoed by the container planting.

  • Photo: Hoffman Landscapes, Inc.

    Natural Setting 

    The stately tree in the background and plantings of fragrant lavender surrounding the outdoor grill give a timeless, slightly Mediterranean ambience to the outdoor kitchen. 

  • Photo: Marvel Refrigeration

    Cool Drink on a Hot Day

    A built-in fridge by Marvel Refrigeration keeps beverages close at hand.

  • Photo: Hoffman Landscapes, Inc.

    Beautiful Landscapes—and Soundscapes

    A beautifully landscaped yard is a great space for relaxing and entertaining. Having your favorite music playing, or listening to natural sounds like running water, adds to the ambiance.

    You might be quietly unwinding on the back patio after a long day as gentle music plays in surround sound, transporting you to times gone by. You may be listening to classical favorites as the sun goes down. Or maybe you’re hosting an exuberant evening party around the pool where upbeat tunes fill the air and dancing begins.

    Outdoor speaker technology has advanced greatly in recent years. Speakers that mimic rocks or are hidden inside specialized planters are nothing new, but the latest in high-performance outdoor speakers look like landscape lights. Sonance, Bose, and Frontgate are good places to browse.  

  • Photo: Hoffman Landscapes, Inc.

    Gentle Lapping 

    The gentle lapping of water at the sides of the pool enhances the pleasure of relaxing at this beckoning poolside. 

  • Photo: Sonance, Inc.

    Tucked Between the Rocks

    Music from a Sonance outdoor speaker tucked between the rocks blends with the sound of water trickling. 

  • Photo: Hoffman Landscapes, Inc.

    Secluded Symphony

    With the right outdoor sound technology, music can filter into secluded parts of the garden.

  • Photo: Hoffman Landscapes, Inc.

    Touch-Me Textures 

    Plants of differing textures offer eye-catching contrasts to the look and (literally) feel of your backyard. Texture also contributes to the overall design and mood of a landscape, helping to create the illusion of depth and space. Ornamental grasses slip through the fingers, geraniums offer a rougher feel. Be it a velvety lamb’s ear or hollyhocks with their thick, squeezable blossoms, plants that beg to be touched draw people into a garden.

    Coarse-textured plants like hydrangea, magnolia, and sumac have large leaves and blooms, making a good background for fine-textured flowers with small leaves and blossoms like Nepeta, Johnny jump-ups, forget-me-nots, salvia, roses, and coral bells.

    Here, purple Nancy, lamb’s ear, and coreopsis occupy the foreground, with sturdy sedums in the middle. Foxgloves provide verticality in the back.

  • Photo: Hoffman Landscapes, Inc.

    Textural Pleasure

    The pachysandra in the foreground gets its name from the Greek word pachys, meaning thick; its shiny, leathery leaves have rough margins. It grounds the combination of boxwood, coleus, and coral bells.

  • Photo: Hoffman Landscapes, Inc.

    Lacey Ferns

    In dappled sunlight, Japanese ferns add a delicate touch to plantings of deeply-veined hosta and spiky red astilbe.

  • Photo: Hoffman Landscapes, Inc.

    Aptly Named 

    Lamb’s ear—irresistible to children—is just as soft as the name promises. 

  • Photo: Hoffman Landscapes, Inc.

    Fragrances Trigger Memories

    From pungent geraniums to heady magnolia blossoms, floral fragrances have an uncanny ability to evoke people’s strongest memories. Plant flowers under open windows to catch a whiff of unforgettable scents, or along paths leading up to your front door as a welcome to home, sweet home.

    Lilac, freesia, violets, gardenias, and roses (choose the old fashioned and unusual varieties for the most intense fragrances) are known for their intense perfume. Shrubs such as lilac, hibiscus, viburnum, and elderberry all have distinct flora scents – some stronger than others. Catmint, lavender and herbs also add to the potpourri. Just a few aromatic gems planted around your yard add a whole new level of enjoyment to the garden experience.

    Magnolia blossoms, like the one shown here, have a heady fragrance that conjures the deep South; magnolia is often used as the prevailing note in perfume.

  • Photo: Hoffman Landscapes, Inc.

    Fresh and Light 

    Daffodils have a light, lemony fragrance; tulips smell fresh and clean. Here they are combined in a winsome windowbox with primrose and pussy willows. 

  • Photo: Hoffman Landscapes, Inc.

    Aromatic Herbs

    Part of the pleasure of gardening with herbs—besides enjoying their lively flavors in cooking—is their intense aromas. Basil and rosemary are shown here.

  • Photo: Hoffman Landscapes, Inc.

    Lovely, Old-Fashioned Peonies

    A sign of early summer, peonies make a delightful cutting flower because of the way they scent a room.

  • Photo: Hoffman Landscapes, Inc.

    Sweet-Smelling Planting

    This cheery planting includes lilies, Nepeta (catmint) and herbs.

  • Photo: Hoffman Landscapes, Inc.

    Sweet Pea

    Sweet pea lives up to its name; many gardeners consider it the sweetest smelling flower.

  • Photo: Hoffman Landscapes, Inc.

    Hardworking Chives

    Chives do quadruple duty in the garden—not only are they aromatic and edible, but they also bloom with purple flowers and repel insects. Interestingly, the leaves smell like onions but the blooms, like their relatives, are in the lily family.