Pink trifolium

A feast for the senses

A feast for the senses! I didn’t want to leave!” 

The above is a quote from my Visitors Book following a garden visit way back in 2011, by a young couple, Jennie & Dave. 

Let’s take an imaginary walk through the garden at Driftwood and understand how each of the 5 senses might help stimulate your visitor experience!

Sight

Take in details as you walk slowly up the steps from the footpath! What kinds of shrubs or plants do you see? What do their leaves look like? Look at the footpath beneath your feet. The cracks in the paving, the small plants growing through!

Image: Geoff Stonebanks

Look closely at a flower or plant that draws your attention, maybe the stunning acanthus, rising dramatically out of the gravel bed. Notice the colour and details of the petals and leaves. Maybe sit in the white Adirondack chair and look out at the distance, letting your gaze soften. When you look out at the horizon, with the Seaford Sailing Club and ocean beyond, it relaxes your brain. Take in the colours you see, maybe observe the cross-channel ferry leaving Newhaven port to sail to Dieppe. Slowly look up at the wonderful canopy of clouds and really take in that view. Just let your eyes wander until they the perspective that most interests you. Spend time with that view. Look at the local details that make this scene special to you and your visit.

Sound

Once you have enjoyed the experiences in the beach garden, walk around the side of the house to the back garden, as you enter, try closing your eyes. Listen closely to what is around you. What do you hear? One of the things visitors seem to enjoy most is the constant sound of running water from the fountain in the small pond and the little water feature by the garden shed. As you enter, you will not actually be able to see the features, just hear them. Is the water constant and running or just burbling away? There’s a great seat by the pond, so why not sit down. Once rested, can you identify the birds in the garden? A sure way to get the birds in is to use Richard Jackson’s Bird Food too. What is happening in the spaces between sounds?

Image: Geoff Stonebanks

What quality makes this location a really special place for you at that moment? When the wind moves the leaves in the trees, stop to listen. What message do you hear? There is much to engage you sat here with your eyes closed!

Touch

As you wind your way through the garden, which seems much bigger due to its different room layout, carefully select a plant or shrub. I’m sure you’ll find something that speaks or shouts out to you as you make your way around!  

A couple of interesting ones for me would be my favourite grass, stipa tenuissima or pony tail grass. I have planted several adjacent to footpaths so they can be caressed as you pass by. Why not place your hands on it and close your eyes and focus on the feeling under your hands? Move your fingers to take in the details with your fingertips, you’ll soon be imagining you are stroking the tail of a pony or horse! 

Pony Tail Grass. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

Another one is the beautiful flowers of the trillium which have such a delicate and soft feel to them.

Smell

As you walk around the plot, make sure you take in a slow deep breath through your nose, then exhale out your mouth. What do you smell? Close your eyes and breathe in the scent again. Repeat this several times, trying to identify what’s around you by smell alone. As you walk through the beach garden in summer it is inevitable you will smell the insatiable scent of the curry plant (helichrysum italicum). It has beautiful yellow flowers but its leaves have the strong smell similar to curry! 

White arindorack chair next to curry plant
Curry plant (helichrysum italic). Image: Geoff Stonebanks

At several points in the back garden the visitors will inevitably smell honey! Euphorbia mellifera, the Canary spurge or honey spurge, is a species of flowering plant in the spurge family Euphorbiaceae, native to Madeira and the Canary Islands. It is an evergreen shrub growing to 2 m or more, with narrow leaves up to 20 cm long. In spring it produces brown, honey-scented flowers. It is such an easy plant to grow too!

Taste

Now at this point, in respect of taste, any visitor to my garden will probably say the sense of taste is best reserved for sampling the delicious home-made cakes that accompany any garden visit. All the refreshments are served on vintage china with teapot, milk jug and china cups! What’s more, there are lots of cosy and interesting places to sit and admire the views.

garden table and chairs at Driftwood
Admire the views with delicious home-made cake and tea. Image: John Glover

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