Bob Farmer, owner of Gristmill Landscaping, considers more than color, shape and texture when he’s selecting plants for a garden. “Sounds, scents and shadows can really tie a garden together,” he says. The sounds of water in a water feature soothe and add ambiance. Water draws nature to the garden, particularly birds whose calls then fill the garden. The trees that the birds use also contribute sound in the form of the rustling leaves on deciduous trees and the whispering of pines. “Yes,” says Farmer. “Conifers do add sound.”
Later in summer crickets add their symphony. Garden sounds even distract from the cacophony of traffic sounds on busy streets. The combined sounds in a garden help human inhabitants enjoy the space, sit and relax and have moments of reverie and reflection.
“Scent is the most vital of all your senses,” says Farmer. Besides the most obvious scents, Farmer likes the smell of dew on the grass and plants, the smell of rain, even the smell of snow. In summer the smell of cut grass fills a garden after mowing. When planting and weeding, the loamy smell of earth arises.
The smells of all elements – earth, wind, water and fire – are present in the garden if the garden has a fire pit or outdoor fireplace. In three seasons, spring to fall, the sweet smells of daffodils, hyacinths, viburnums, daphne bushes, lilacs, roses, lavender, monarda, lilies (especially ‘Stargazers’) and autumn clematis. “And don’t forget Styrax japonicus,” Farmer says of the elegant, compact tree that blooms in spring.
“Shadows play such a part in the landscape too,” says Farmer. “Morning shadows are different than any other shadows.” First thing in the morning, he explains, the shadows are more intense. With the sun at noon, shadows begin to lengthen. Open plant material further elongates the shadows. “The same plants you plant for texture also create rewarding shadows,” Farmer says giving hinoki cypress as an example. “The whole plant is laced with shadows at any given time, because of the fan-shaped foliage that casts off unusual shadows.”
The day ends with softer light and deeper shadows. “The dark becomes darker, and the light becomes lighter,” says Farmer. He likes white flowers to brighten the garden at dusk, moonflowers especially. Each large white trumpet unfurls in evening and stays open until sunrise. For an added bonus some moonflowers are fragrant.
Sounds, scents and shadows not only tie a garden together, but they also carry through the garden, creating movement and adding sensory dimension to enrich the experience of working in and living with a garden.
1532 Jarrettsville Road | Jarrettsville, MD, 21084 | 410-557-4213
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