How to Cultivate a Fragrant Garden Using Touch and Smell

Ginger Flowers
Ginger Flowers. Harry Williamson/Spring Studio

I’m sure most of us can resonate with this quote from John Burroughs, "I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”

It’s easy to see why we love to be surrounded by nature and why so many people like to have a garden of their own. But if you are feeling a little fear creeping in lately knowing your eyesight is getting worse and you are wondering how you will continue caring for your garden – Don’t fret.

Gardening with Touch and Smell

Gardening is one of life’s pleasures you can do with your eyes closed – when you learn to trust your sense of touch and smell. There are dozens of ways to continue tending to your plants even when you can’t see them. I’ll share a little secret: I’ve been caught weeding my garden in the pitch blackness of night pulling out cheeky weeds because it is easy to feel the difference between a long grass weed or a small seedling, no matter what time of day or night it is.

You too can do this by developing sensitivity in your fingertips rather than relying on sight.

The best thing about staying in touch with gardening as sight fades is that you can plant out a selection of fragrant plants that will lift your spirits by having a place to linger, especially on those days when life can get overwhelming.

Take time in your garden, tickle out lush roots, feel between the leaves, crush a few petals and stalks in your hand and sit and smell the scent of peace.

You don’t need a huge patch of earth, either, to appreciate having some plants at your fingertips to touch and smell. Even an old rubber boot can be filled with soil and planted out with a nasturtium seed or a cutting of rosemary.

Fragrant Plants to Lift Your Mood

Try some of these amazingly fragrant ‘happy’ plants, chosen for their robust nature and zingy scent:

  •  Lavender
  •  Rosemary
  •  Lemongrass
  •  Mint & other herbs
  •  Scented geraniums
  •  Thornless roses
  •  Honeysuckle
  •  Jasmine
  •  Bulbs like hyacinth & jonquils
  •  Sunny sunflowers

The list goes on and on, but I am sure you will have some special favorites of your own.

The beauty in growing plants such as lavender, for example, is that you can harvest the flower heads, store them for a while and make up fragrant sachets or pillow bags to present to your friends as gifts. This doesn’t require sight – it is achieved by having a sense of creative fun as well as having a keen sense of smell.

The other plant every gardener should consider growing is a lemon tree, either full size or miniature, because you can pick the lemons when ripe and make the most delicious lemon curd, fresh and organic, straight from garden to jar.

Planting Tips to Keep You in Touch with Nature

As a gardener experiencing low vision, it is extra important to:

  • Be organized and develop a system of storing things, like keeping garden tools in the same place. This reduces frustration when needing to find them quickly for next time.
  • Stay mindful as you cruise around the garden beds of where you last put down the trowel. Place it next to a large rock or other obvious object.
  • Carry a bucket or basket to keep cuttings, seed packets, secateurs, etc., to keep them close by your side.
  • Use a contrasting-colored mat to kneel on. This not only cushions your knees but it also acts as a tactile pointer to find your position after getting up and moving to other places.
  • When planting out young seedlings, place a small stick to mark each one or use a cut out soft drink bottle to cover and mark the spot.
  • Grow plants in clumps surrounded by a border of some kind to make watering that patch easier to locate.
  • Try to distinguish your herbs not only by their fragrance but by planting them in different brightly colored pots. This makes picking easy and brightens up a patio.

Remember, losing your sight is not a reason to give up caring for a garden patch but a wonderful opportunity to see anew. So use the tips of your fingers and your sense of smell to enhance your pleasure and create a sensory garden you can enjoy for years to come.

For some amazing garden inspiration, check out the Eden Project UK.

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