OOTS: Planting for the Senses

Since I took this picture of the planting outside the council offices in Bristol a couple of weeks ago, I've been musing about public planting for the senses. It struck me forcefully back then how often our planting focuses on just one aspect: seeing. There's no harm in our displays being as cheerful and eye catching as possible, after all research has shown people are drawn to colour and it's a good way to ensure most people enjoy what's on offer. 

However, we usually take care to ensure all our senses are well catered for in our own gardens. Plants with delicious scents such as lavender are employed close to where we sit or enter our garden; textural and strokeable plants like grasses are used for touch and hearing; and we all love our herbs and other edibles. So why aren't these aspects catered for in most of our public planting?

And why did this strike me when walking past this particular scene? It wasn't just the unusual use of hyacinths in the display, but also their scent which lingered long after I'd passed by. I usually find it rather overpowering at home, but was just right in this more open aspect.

I can think of dozens of displays I've featured in my Out on the Streets and Public Planting strands which cater well for our sight, but only a few which stimulate some or all of our other senses. Perhaps it's because we move quickly past many of these plantings on our way to somewhere else, so the designs emphasise the visual side of things more. Using plants to stimulate our other senses would invite us to linger, though that might not be a bad thing.

How about you? Is the public planting in your neighbourhood strictly visual, or can it be enjoyed by more than one of your senses? Do share your experiences in the comments below, or better still make a contribution to OOTS! Click on the link to find out how...


  1. The driveway of our estate backs on to the rear gardens of a neighbouring street and, as I walk down it, I often stop to appreciate the different scents throughout the year. Currently we have (I think) winter flowering jasmine and in the summer have honeysuckle. Almost seen over the old brick walls but definitely scenting the air on our side! Lovely! (Might even look out for a photo!) Caro x P.S. Municipal planting is not so generous to the senses round our way!

  2. Oops, above comment by me, I hadn't realised i was still logged in to another google account! Sorry! Caro x

  3. Caro - happily I'd worked out room was you - good to see you :)


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