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16 October 2014
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Autumn 2001

The Tactile Garden
by Brendan Little

Brendan LittleTactile gardens are often designed with the partially sighted in mind, but the tactile garden should remind us all of the importance of stimulating our senses.

There are lots of plants which have fragrant foliage and it is quite a good idea to place such plants around seating areas where their fragrance may be best enjoyed. Some plants are potent enough to release their scent on being brushed against while others may require crushing between the fingers.

For fragrant foliage my favourite is lemon verbena which releases the most beautiful citrus fragrance. The geraniums, botanically called Pelargoniums, are well worth considering; look for Pelargoinum ‘Chocolate Peppermint’, Pelargonium odoratissimum and Pelargonium ‘Royal Oak’. Do remember that these plants will have to be kept in a glasshouse over the winter period. If this sounds bit like hard work read on!

Lavandula Hardy plants such as rosemary, lavander (my favourite is Lavandula stoechas), bay laurel and Escallonia macrantha all produce aromatic foliage. I could not be without my golden lemon balm, a plant I simply cannot pass by without smelling. Try to find a sheltered alcove in your garden for these plants otherwise the fragrance may be lost to the balmy breeze, what breeze I hear you cry, okay lost to the balmy gale.

Touch (no not that kind of touch) is a much-underrated element in the garden so do consider the texture of tree bark before doing any planting. The birch family contains some fine examples of irriestable bark in the touchy department. Betula albo-sinensis var.septentrionalis has the most beautiful orange-brown peeling bark that you could wish to see or touch. How about the paper bark maple Acer griseum which is generally planted for its exquisite coppery brown flaking bark, or the close relative of the strawberry tree Arbutus x andrachnoides the bark of which is both flaky and smooth at the same time. Now if all of this is a little too slow for your liking you may wish to fast forward by employing eucalyptus to bring some tactile bark to your garden. If you have the space go for the snow gum Eucalyptus niphophila or if space is at a premium you can try the cider gum Eucalyptus.



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