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The Five Senses of Landscape Design

Really taking in your natural surroundingOur perception of the world is built around the use of one or more of the five senses – touch, sound, sight, smell and taste. We use this multi-sensory system to help us make instant decisions on whether something is good or bad for us. If a loud mysterious noise comes barreling towards us, our instinct is usually to be concerned, where as a bakery’s fresh aroma will make most of us feel comforted and unexpectedly hungry.

How we respond to our senses makes up much of how we go about our daily life. For example, we probably wouldn’t fill our home with unwanted scents, ugly or uncomfortable furniture, and we certainly wouldn’t purchase food items that we find repulsive. As a local landscaping company, we are often challenged by clients to create an outdoor living environment that transcends the walls of their house and makes them feel comfortable. In doing so, we believe that designing the outside of your home should be approached just as holistically as how you would do so on the inside.

For the most part, when creating a customized landscape, we have the ability to incorporate specific characteristics of the natural world that make us feel good. With so much room for creativity, we should all be able to compose a yard that stimulates a positive response to each of the five senses. By adding these different elements, we open up an opportunity to mindfully absorb all aspects of a landscape. For people who have full or partial loss of one or more of the five senses, enhancing other areas can also help access new ways of experiencing the natural world.

To build the ultimate multisensory experience in your backyard, let’s look at ideas in each on of the five senses.

Sight:Getting close to your landscape

For most people, aesthetics is usually the number one factor when designing a landscape. The outside of the home, like the cover a book, becomes a visual representation of the owners. That being said, most people want to be presented by a well maintained and welcoming landscape – one that seemingly describes the owners in some way or another.

Ideas:
– What colors, styles and shapes attract you the most?
– Understand what plants will look like during each season for a more comprehensive look all year long.
– Are you planning on maintaining your yard or do you need someone else to help?
– For instance, a messy yard may become a subtle frustration or haunt you on the days that should be spent relaxing outside.
– What additional sculptures or features can you add that will bring you joy?

Blueberries in your backyardTaste:

While most people aren’t grazing on ornamental shrubs, it can be an option to design an edible landscape that produces the same colors, shapes and aesthetics as those that don’t provide some form of nutrient (to you). Right now, it is said that roughly 60 million Americans grow edible plants of some kind during the year.

The use of fruit plants, veggies and herbs can be both functional, pleasing to the eye, and doesn’t necessarily have to be contained in a garden specific part of your yard. For example, growing blueberry bushes throughout the more ornamental ones can provide that touch of color with a seasonal treat each time you go outside.

Ideas:
– What are your favorite fruit or vegetables that you feel confident in growing, maintaining and harvesting?
– Will you want edible plants that will return every year with little maintenance, or will you be planting seasonal ones that need more attention? Or both?
– How can you utilize edible container gardens throughout your yard for more enhanced greenery? – If you love hanging baskets – did you know strawberries can be grown in a hanging basket?

Smell:

Imagine walking towards your home and being greeted by a variety of smells, from blossoming flowers and herbs tucked in all corners of your yard. Adding certain kinds of thyme in between pathway stone can bring a welcoming new dimension as you release its fragrance each step of the way. For many, the scents of spring and summer flowers are enough to make any day seem more refreshing.

Smelling the dogwoodsDid you know that researchers from Rockefeller University were able to conduct a test which showed that the nose can smell at least one trillion distinct scents? Smell really is a powerful way of understanding our environment.

Ideas:
– If you notice odors that you don’t enjoy in your yard, how can adding or subtracting items dampen it’s smell? For example, if you don’t like the smell of mulches, try working with more ground cover or no mow grass instead.
– Research the scent of plants before installing, and be sure to strategically places them around your yard for the most effect. Container gardens with herbs, such as rosemary, can give wonderful aromas throughout your yard – plus handy for cooking or specialty drinks!

Sound:

Are you the kind of person who feels energized by the singing of distant birds, or one who is soothed by the sound of trickling water? All of us have our ‘go-to’ preference. Unfortunately, many homeowners struggle with unwanted sounds that take away from being able to enjoy their yard.

For those those looking to dampen neighborhood sounds from cars or other activities, they can benefit from installing a natural wall of trees or large shrubs. Not only can trees absorb carbon dioxide, prevent erosion, and create shade, they can also significantly reduce unwanted sounds. Plus, they can really bring together any landscape design. Remember, even a quiet environment is an important personal preference.

Ideas:
– Adding the right amount of native shrubs and trees, such as hollies, can help encourage bird species to nest or feast in your yard, creating many opportunities hear and see them.
– If there is no natural steam nearby, an installed water feature can provide you with the constant sound of trickling water.
– Additional features such as wind sculptures can help bring natural tunes to your backyard.

Touch:DSCN7426

One of the many reasons we create individualized landscapes is to help fill the need of having an outdoor living space for easy and private access. Within the confines of our home, we can walk barefoot on the grass, soak up vitamin D from the sun, and have a space to get our hands dirty. At the end of the day, the landscape of your home should entice you to spend quality time outside.

Ideas:
– How are you going to want to spend time in your yard? Whether you need a place to sit, relax or even lay in the grass – is that currently possible?
– Do you want a personal garden to get your hands dirty? If so, will that be a container or designated spot directly in the ground?
– A customized fire pit can get you outside, even on those cool evenings.

Understanding and implementing a multisensory landscape allows you to be more in tune with your outdoor living environment. Creating a space that makes you feel good, while tailoring to your needs, should be the top priority when either constructing or renovating the landscape on your land. We suggest writing down each one of the five senses and brainstorming what comes naturally to you. At the end of the day, a more individualized landscape, tailored to your needs and likes, creates a higher chance of spending more time outside. We think that makes the investment worth while, and for some, it just makes scents.

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