Well-being benefits of a tactile garden

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Sensory gardens appeal to all our senses – sight, smell, sound, taste and touch – helping to reduce stress and anxiety and providing us with a place that helps encourage well-being and mindfulness.

A fragrant garden is familiar to many, but in these social distancing times being able to touch and feel plants and structures is also beneficial.

Creating gardens with plants and features that say ‘touch me’ encourages interaction and can also be a good way to practice mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness concentrates your mind on the ‘here and now’ and is a proven way of dealing with mild depression or anxiety.

Focus on what the plants feel like – not just their fragrance when touched – from leathery and lacey to soft and smooth. You can also mix plants that are great to touch with tactile hard landscaping elements such as a water feature, smooth polished round pebbles or the glazed ceramics.

Some top touching plants and features to consider

Leaves – try Stachys byzantina, commonly known as Lamb’s Ear. Its soft, downy, furry silver-grey leaves are a favourite among gardeners who tend to use it for ground cover in rich soil. As a contrast there is Acuba japonica (Japanese laurel) which has smooth, glossy leathery leaves.

Flowers – who can resist touching a bottlebrush Callistemon cintrinus – bundles of tiny delicate stamen flowers form a brush that’s soft to touch – or the soft paper-thin petals of a poppy Papaver orientale.

Grasses – run your hand over the arching, thread-like leaves of feathery Stipa tenuissima also known as Mexican feather grass or the more robust drought proof ornamental Festuca glauca with thread-like blue foliage that forms dense mounds.

Bark – tree bark can also provide a tactile experience especially when it’s the stunning flowering cherry Prunus serrulate with mahogany coloured bark that peels away in bands round the trunk.

Landscaping – you can easily vary the textures in your garden by choosing different hard landscaping options. If you have smooth pebbles surrounding a water feature that you can run your hand over and through, you could place lichen-covered rocks in another area of the garden.

Our general well-being is intrinsically linked to the natural world which is why Thrive – the gardening for health charity – has developed the Thrive Gardening Club.

For fortnightly tips on getting the most out of your garden, whatever your age or ability, and information on how gardening can keep you healthy and feeling good visit www.thrive.org.uk/get-involved/keep-in-touch/subscribe-to-gardening-club

Thrive is the UK’s leading provider of social and therapeutic horticulture programmes using gardening to bring about positive changes in the lives of people living with disabilities, ill health or mental health issues, or who are isolated, disadvantaged or vulnerable.