Designing Landscapes to Please All the Senses
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Boulder Landscape and Design

Designing Landscapes to Please All the Senses

Designing Landscapes to Please All the Senses - waterfallWhen we think of designing a landscape, we usually think about form, function and visual attractiveness. Still, nature has so much more to offer us! A well-designed landscape can excite all the senses, drawing family and friends into it for a stroll, conversation and discovery. Wouldn’t it be great to hear a child say, “I don’t want to watch TV right now, I’m going out to pet the Lamb’s Ear and taste the honeysuckle.”

Designing landscapes as a treat for the nose

The scent of a plant comes from its volatile oils, and the ideal conditions for the strongest scents include moisture, cool air, calm breezes, and fertile soils. Too much sun, wind and drought will dry up these delicate oils. Below are a few suggestions for your landscape:

  • Scented Geraniums are bred for exotic scents and are a power-packed start to cultivating a nose for plants. They are grown in pots and can line a sunny porch in summer and a kitchen windowsill in winter. Their scent comes from oils in the leaves – mint, orange, lemon, chocolate, pineapple and even bubblegum!
  • Aromatic plants along the walkway or front door are a great way to welcome friends and family. Favorites include scented thymes between flagstone steppers, lavender or nepeta flanking a walk, and the low-growing annual sweet alyssum as a bedding edge.Its heady odor carries for at least a yard.
  • Everyone loves the smell of a rose, and one of the most fragrant roses, Rosa rugosa, is also the easiest to grow. It sports extremely fragrant blooms all summer which emit a head-turning aroma..
  • In the spring, rely on hyacinth bulbs along well-traveled areas, and of course crab-apples and other fruit trees – also a delight for the pallet!

Please touch me!

Have you ever run the feathery plumes of a decorative grass across your palms, or plucked a dragon head from a snap dragon to make it :bite?” Here are a few landscape plants that just beg to be fiddled with:

Designing Landscapes to Please All the Senses

  • Lamb’s Ears is a perennial favorite in Colorado as it is drought resistant and deer-proof. It has a soft and velvety feel to the leaves similar to the popular Pussy Willows, easily grown along the Front Range.
  • Cock’s Comb or Celosia cristata produces a stiff, red bristle that looks just like the undulating comb on a rooster but feels like a scrub brush. A fun discovery for kids!
  • Woolly thyme is a sensory treat for your feet! It thrives as a carpet planted between stone steppers and is silky and soft on the bottom of bare feet.


With the auditory overload in our world today, we seldom think of coming home and listening to the rustling of our gardens, but the medical profession is finding that natural sound can be a palliative for the nerves. Here’s a few plants worth listening to:

  • From mid to late summer the prolific dried pods of the Golden Rain Tree stir like organic wind chimes in a light evening breeze, and produce an eerie whistle when the wind kicks up.
  • Aspen – with their famous quake – and their cousins the cottonwoods rustle with even the slightest air movement. The effect is a soft whispering – pull up a hammock and take a siesta!
  • When activated by winter winds, the hollow stems of decorative bamboo click and clack softly and pleasantly, creating a rhythm section for the murmuring chorus of the winter landscape.
    Water features are another great way to set up a soft auditory backdrop for the garden.

The edible landscape…

…was the topic of our “Eating Your Yard” post. Even if you don’t plant in the spring, find out what might be growing in your yard that you can harvest this season!