Most of the time when we walk through gardens, we “Ooo” and “Ahh” about the things we see. Gardens can soothe you with a green palette, energize you with bold colors, intrigue you with contrasts in the shape and form of whole plants, leaves, and flowers, engage you with garden art and creative hardscape, delight you with hidden garden “rooms”. But sight is only one of our senses, and the best gardens are designed for all of them.
Sound: If you close your eyes in a garden, you are immediately aware of sounds — bird calls, the rustle of leaves in the wind, the crunch of gravel underfoot, the splash of water in fountains and bird baths, the scampering of squirrels (alas!). Coexist with the insects that like your plants, and birds that eat insects will come to you garden. Let some plants go to seed and you will have flocks of lesser goldfinches sitting on them. Add some ornamental grasses or trees like poplars to your landscape and there will be the gentle sigh of leaves moving in the breeze underlying the other sounds.
Smell: Along with the sounds of a garden, the scents of a garden engage you — the fragrance of citrus and of roses; the lemony smell of angel’s trumpets at dusk; the sweet scent of jasmine along with the smell of mown grass; the musty aroma of decomposing mulch; the rich smell of wet earth; the tantalizing scent of the tiny white flowers of sweet olive. Every garden should have some plants chosen for fragrance that are planted next to places where you will sit or walk. And don’t forget leaves: gently rub the leaves of herbs such as sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and lemon balm, or of ornamentals like myrtle, and delightful scents will be released.
Touch: Gardens are full of different textures — smooth gardenia and camellia leaves; silky rose petals; wooly lamb’s ears; hairy borage; flexible grass stems; fluffy butterfly weed seed heads; rough bark; soft or stiff branches; papery sea lavender flowers. Snapdragons are fun (for all ages) to pinch. Benches, plant supports, pots, mulches, all add to the variety of surfaces in the garden.
Taste: Many gardeners set aside areas for an orchard or vegetable patch, but even gardens designed as ornamental can include edible plants. Herbs not only look and smell nice but are good to eat, and some do well in less than full sun. Citrus and many other fruit trees have lovely flowers and many of the semi-dwarf forms do well in mixed garden beds. The petals of pineapple guava flowers are tasty and nasturtium flowers and leaves are peppery. Vegetables like Swiss chard and lettuce can add color and texture as well as food for the table.
Of course, no matter what you have in your garden, it should be grown with sensible care (such as avoiding pesticides on flowers you plan to eat). Taking sustainability principles into account generally makes a garden easier to maintain, and can help ensure a beautiful and cohesive design. There is more information about this on the Garden Club website (www.claremontgardenclub.org).
You can see how some Claremont gardens have incorporated these ideas on the Garden Club’s annual tour “Claremont Eclectic: A Tour of Six Local Gardens” on April 14, from 1pm to 4:30pm. Tickets are only $20 and include admission to Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. They are available online on our website or in person at Garner House in Memorial Park and at Rio de Ojas at 250 N Harvard Ave.
The Garden Club and the Woman’s Club would also like to invite you to the Claremont Flower Show on March 29 (from 1pm to 6pm) and 30 (from 10am to 4pm) at 343 W 12 th St. This is free to enter and to visit. There is more information about this on our website, too.
Demystifying Sustainability is an initiative of Sustainable Claremont (susustainableclaremont.org).