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Hints and tips in the garden

A pleasing and sensory outside space can be created no matter how small your garden, balcony, window box or plot of ground. Think about stimulating all of your senses to make your outside space a joy to look at, listen to, touch, smell and taste.         

Consider how you use colour and contrast

Choose bright and vivid colours to maximise sight.  Red, white and yellow blooms look good either mixed together or in beds and planters of the same colour.  Try grape hyacinth, trailing lobelias or poppies for a lovely blue display. 

Use colour on walls for contrast. Blue, purple or terracotta can create an interesting effect, and remember to define steps with white or yellow edges for clearer visibility. When choosing garden furniture and planters, think about how easy they are to see – green is popular but will blend in with the background, so try to use colour boldly and make it a feature.                      

Consider how you use sound to complement your garden

Select plants, shrubs and trees that ‘rustle’ in the breeze, such as laurel bushes or plants with long leaves such as flags. Think about plants that attract bees and butterflies, for example buddleia. Take care here though, because flying insects can be distressing to some people especially if they can’t see what is ‘buzzing’ around them.  Wind chimes can be pleasing and also a landmark, which is useful for orientation.  Water features and trickling water can be relaxing. Bird tables and feeders will attract birds in to your garden. Contrasting textures and ground surfaces provide a subtle change of sound that together with the feel can be an excellent mobility aid.

Consider touch and textures

When you are deciding what plants and shrubs to choose, consider the leaf textures – plants like succulents are smooth and firm to the touch, rabbit ears are soft and furry, while tree bark has a rough texture.  Take care when choosing plants which have thorns or spines, for example roses or hawthorns, especially where they are near to a footpath or doorway or where a visually impaired person might bend or touch them by accident.  Choose planters or raised beds that have interesting textures. Use different heights, colours and textures for added interest. Remember that ground surfaces like gravel, wood bark, decking and block paving can be a good sound and textural guide for a visually impaired person. Old fashioned grass is always nice and soft to walk and sit on.  Remember when choosing ground textures also consider general mobility and where appropriate use good solid surfaces that are easy to walk on – add handrails where necessary and make them a feature of your garden.

Consider the fragrance of a garden

Choose highly perfumed plants like roses, carnations; night scented stock, sweet pea and honeysuckle or softly fragranced lavender or lilac. Use herbs like mint, rosemary and thyme, which either give off a soft general fragrance or one, which is fragrant to the touch.  Wood bark and cut grass smells are nice particularly after a rain shower – but remember if you or anyone in your household have allergies or have hay fever, take care when deciding on the design of your outside space.  A simply planned patio with nice garden furniture and non-allergic candles can be equally effective – but again remember that candles need to be positioned safely and do tell the visually impaired person where you have placed them.  Some visually impaired people really like candles as they can be seen easily in low light and are interesting to look at, others dislike them and don’t feel at ease around them – so always check.

Consider taste…you could grow your own!

Why not set aside a plot in your garden, a planter or window box to grow your own vegetables, herbs and spices.  Growing your own can be fun and rewarding; they are always fresh and taste good too.  Try mint rosemary and thyme which can all be grown easily in a pot. Try potatoes, runner beans and brassicas in a larger area – there are lots of varieties of seeds to choose from.

If you don’t fancy turning your hand to growing your own, then simply sit back with a nice cuppa…or maybe a beer, and enjoy the sounds and feel of your lovely outside space.

Some general tips for the garden

  • Are you, or do you know a visually impaired gardener?
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