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Category Archives: Garden Design

A Sensory Garden Reimagined

“The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses.”

-Hanna Rion

Almost thirty years ago, my husband and I took our first trip to France. Our destination was Paris but along the way we scheduled a romantic anniversary visit to the lovely town of Reims. It is considered an essential stop on France’s champagne trail with big-name bubbly houses headquartered there among wide boulevards and well-preserved medieval churches.

Linda at The Garden of the Five Senses

 Our three-night stay was at an elegant boutique hotel known as Domaine Les Crayeres. Nestled discreetly in a seven-hectare park full of lush vegetation, it remains one of my most treasured travel memories. During our stay, it was suggested that we visit a little-known sensory garden in a charming village just outside of town. We were told that not many tourists take time to visit the garden but because of our desire to experience the lesser-known places, we were excited to make the trip. The cost to enter the garden was minimal but the joy we shared that afternoon was priceless.  Our enchanting visit was to a place called, “The Garden of the Five Senses”.

It was a beautiful day in August with temperatures hovering comfortably in the seventy-degree range. Unlike summer weather in Texas, we had chosen a perfect time to spend the day outdoors. An incredible bottle of French champagne led to countless toasts and smiles as we leisurely enjoyed a beautiful afternoon in the garden.

Each of the five individual gardens were created using a loosely defined circular formation. Plants were carefully selected for the role they would play in stirring up the senses:  sight, smell, taste, sound and touch. Unhurried and totally caught up in the moment, our hearts and souls were rejuvenated. A quaint, little “off the beaten path”, and privately owned garden, had given us the gift of a lifetime memory.

Reflecting on that wonderful day in France, this spring our volunteers introduced a Texas style version of a sensory garden to the edible landscape. Our sensory garden is on a much, much smaller scale than the one in France, but we’ve packed in a pleasing variety of edible plants. Summer into early fall we will be featuring some of the following:

Sight: Variegated Oregano, Variegated Tomato, Hibiscus Topiary, Balsamic Blooms Basil, Calendula, Epazote, Hoja Santa, Red Roselle Hibiscus, Hyacinth Bean ‘Moonshadow’, Lamb’s Quarters

Smell: Alyssum ‘Oriental Nights’, Anise, Apricot Coral Drift Rose, Cinnamon Basil, French Tarragon, Provence Lavender, Red Stemmed Apple Mint, Scented Pelargoniums: Chocolate, Lavender and Peach

Taste: Cutting Celery, Dill, Eggplant, Lemon Variegated Thyme, Mushroom Plant, Peppers, Stevia, Vietnamese Coriander, White Velvet Okra, White Leafed Savory

Sound: Bay Laurel ‘Lil Ragu’ (gently rustling in the breeze), Bees buzzing around all of the pollinator-friendly plants, Wind Chimes

Touch: Archer’s Gold Thyme, Curry Plant, Golden Pineapple Sage, Purple Sage, Rosemary, Variegated Lemon Balm

We invite you to visit the sensory garden anytime you’re in the area.
You might even consider bringing along a bottle of bubbly to celebrate the experience.

10 Tips for Creating a Sensory Garden

1. Choose an ideal location. Find a quiet place in your yard or somewhere that naturally draws you into a “time-out” or relaxing place in the garden. 

2. Measure the space and create a map of the area. Detailed information is beneficial when the time comes for selecting plants.

3. Decide what plants and features will best achieve the atmosphere that is desired. Accessories like gazing balls, mirrors and sculpture can add to the visual effect.

4. Provide a bench, swing, or some place to sit and relax. A unique idea would be to install a chamomile lawn. The recommended variety of chamomile for this particular purpose is Roman Chamomile (C. nobile ‘Treneague’).

5. Create a safe place using plants that are non-toxic, non-allergenic and with no pesticide application.

6. Choose plants that will keep the senses aroused each season of the year.

7. When selecting plants pay close attention to growing conditions whether sun or shade, poor or good drainage, clay or other types of soil.

8. Decide which plants are best for stimulating each of the five senses. Start with 3 plants for each one, then expand as space and growing characteristics allow.

9. Feature elements that appeal to the five senses:

Color – may be seasonal, grouped in clusters or spaced for maximum contrast.

Texture – use plants that add a variety of tactile stimulation.

Water and Wind Chimes – items like bird baths, fountains and small ponds provide a refreshing sensory experience for sight, sound and touch while attracting birds, butterflies and other pollinators to the garden. Enhance the sense of sound with wind chimes and/or whirligigs.

10. Be inspired throughout the process. Creating a sensory garden will elevate your environment into one that gives interest and stimulation to people of all ages.

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

Lucinda Hutson’s Austin Garden

Starla and I visited Austin gardens last year in May as participants in the Garden Bloggers Fling.

The color of this purple house and the merriment in its surrounding gardens have remained in my mind.

Lucinda Hutson’s home and garden in Austin

‘La Morada” or the little purple house is a perfect backdrop for the enchanting gardens.

Lucinda Huston welcoming us from her front door. Note the boots adorned with purple foliage.

The narrow lot was made into a series of colorful garden rooms each with a theme.

The fish atop the wall gives a hint of the mermaid grotto you are about to enter.

Fish chairs fish pots, a shell arch and a pond planted with papyrus and ferns. The shape of the plants suggest the ocean floor.

I first learned of Lucinda through her book the The Herb Garden Cookbook.  Garden herbs from around the world meld with edible flowers and other colorful flowers. Take a long look at the pots, the edge of the roof, the tiles on the door, and the zest she has built into this garden room.

Love the fern silhouette!

You knew there would be a bar and ourtdoor dining.  This is a high-spirited place!

Viva Tequila! Cocktails, Cooking, and Other Agave Adventures, Lucinda’s latest cookbook must have been written while sitting in this part of her garden.

Lucinda’s cantina!

Th mosaic stepping stones in the garden suggest making the most of broken pieces-a reminder to enjoy life.






And that’s what gardens do, they remind us to enjoy life. Thank you Lucinda Hutson for sharing yours.

Ann Lamb


Garden Bloggers Fling Day 1 and Stop 1

A rainy view of the entrance to Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center.”My special cause, the one that alerts my interest and quickens the pace of my life, is to preserve the wildflowers and native plants that define the regions of our land — to encourage and promote their use in appropriate areas, and thus help pass on to generations in waiting the quiet joys and satisfactions I have known since my childhood.”

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center was our first stop on Friday. As we gathered for the group picture, they mentioned that rain was headed our way.  Being a native Texan, I should have heeded the warning when I heard “squall line”, but I was intent on seeing the treasures that awaited us.

Even in the rain, the cholla in the demonstration garden beckoned. It’s magenta blooms caught my eye through the stone window.

Cholla cactus blooms

  It began to sprinkle -colorful ponchos dotted the gardens and then it started to rain, then it began to go sideways, so we scurried to find shelter. It didn’t take long to realize that the elements were winning, but so was the garden – the much needed rain was a welcome sight, even though it came torrentially.

A caterpillar sighting lured some of us out of the stone alcove, but the elements were getting the upper hand –everything was soaked-our pictures were blurred , cameras were malfunctioning…

We retreated to the main entrance where we sought refuge under the eaves and ultimately in the gift shop. A beautiful bouquet of wildflowers brightened our dampened spirits (pun intended) in the restroom.

As we left, the sound of the stone cistern filling up was music to the ears. Even though it was a wash in some ways, it wasn’t all for naught.  It’s not often you get to see Lady Bird Wildflower Center through the rain.

Starla Willis

Garden Bloggers Tour Austin Gardens

Garden bloggers from all over the United States, Canada and England gathered in Austin in early May to tour the finest and best gardens.  The Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center, the Zilker Botanical gardens and fourteen private gardens were viewed over three days. The first night’s event started at the Austin Central Library where we enjoyed their rooftop sustainable garden with a view of Shoal Creek and Lady Bird Lake. This eco-friendly building and its landscape were a perfect start for the Garden Blogger’s Fling.

Rooftop Garden of Austin Central Library

We saw many garden styles from large estates to cottage plots. All of them shared a fondness for yucca and agave (I have never seen so many different kinds), deer resistant plants, water-conserving methods, and phenomenal hardscaping (usually using rocks from their own property.)

Yucca baccata in front of sun-baked limestone wall

What we didn’t see in Austin is a story in itself: no bedding plants and hardly any bushes because of deer pressure and no weeds because of the true grit of the owners themselves or in some cases, staff.

I am awed by my fellow Texas gardeners.  We say gardening in Dallas is tough but Austin gardeners may be tougher!  Less water, rocky soil and more critter problems (deer bedding down in the garden, eating the garden and rutting in the garden.) In the truest sense, they turned problems into brilliant design.

Starla and I want to share pictures from the Garden Bloggers Fling 2018 over the next few weeks. We think you will be inspired, learn and renew your commitment to good gardening.

Ann Lamb

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