Your Home

Sustainable garden sprouts sensory delights

Photo Courtesy of Julie Orr

A well-designed and carefully maintained garden that inspires the senses – touch, sound, smell, taste and sight – can offer long-term enjoyment of earthly delights.

Creating a garden that stimulates all the senses while conserving water can be very rewarding. Enjoying not only the sights and smells of the garden, but also hearing, touching and tasting it is a matter of selecting just the right plant or feature and locating it where it will deliver the most pleasure to your senses.


A garden pathway is an ideal place to locate touchable plants such as New Zealand Wind Grass, Anemanthele lessoniana or native Deergrass such as Muhlenbergia rigens.

The textures invite visitors to linger while gently passing their hands over soft foliage, flowers or seed heads. Using walkable ground covers such as Yarrow, Achillea tomentosa, on pathways instead of stone or grass will offer the feet unexpected sensations. Children love the furry-soft foliage of Lamb’s Ear, Stachys byzantine – it’s like having a petting zoo in their own yard.


Instead of depending on wind chimes for sound in the garden, add trees or shrubs that attract songbirds or hummingbirds to bring in natural sounds. Nectar-producing shrubs such as Ava’s Hummingbird Mint, Agastache ‘Ava,’ attract hummingbirds.

To enjoy the gurgling sound of water, add a small water-conserving feature like a pondless urn-style fountain. Capture the sound of the breeze rustling through the grass by adding tall, clumping Feather Reed Grass, Calamagrostis acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster.’


Spreading roses throughout the garden rather than grouping them in one area enables visitors to enjoy the intoxicating scent repeatedly. Heirloom roses found at specialty stores have some of the best fragrances.

Plants that have scented foliage such as Cleveland Sage, Salvia clevelandii, and Lemon thyme, Thymus citriodorus, add wonderful smells when brushed along pathways. Consider growing perfumed vines to add even more fragrance. Star Jasmine, Trachelospermum jasminoides, is an unfussy vine that will grow in both shade and sun.


A garden combination of edible and ornamental plantings offers its own tasty delights. New varieties of artichokes, cabbage and lettuce bring distinctive foliage colors and textures that fit well with perennials.

Edible flowers such as nasturtiums and pansies can be added to salads or used as garnish.

Culinary herbs such as oregano, sage and rosemary can be mixed with perennials.


Create a pleasing visual picture by varying the height, form, color and texture of plantings. Placing ground covers in contrasting colors under taller perennials will add scale and dimension. Use a tree or other focal element as a center of visual interest to frame a view. Add a touch of mystery by having garden pathways disappear behind larger plantings.

Last but not least, add outdoor lighting to illuminate and extend your garden enjoyment into the night.

A well-designed sustainable sensory garden can provide long-term enjoyment of earthly delights.

Julie Orr is a landscape designer and member of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers. For more information, call 468-8020 or visit

Schools »

Read More

Sports »

Read More

People »

Read More

Special Sections »

Special Sections
Read More

Photos of Los Altos

Browse and buy photos