For me, it’s not just the sights and sounds in nature that offer me solace from everyday stresses, but also the smells around me too.
Getting my hands (and feet) in the soil whilst hearing the birds and bees singing and buzzing; the grasses and tree-leaves swaying in the breeze and seeing the beautiful colours, shapes and textures of the myriad plants in my garden bring a smile to my face and to my heart.
This is not surprising if we consider that people have evolved with plants and we tend to have positive psychological and physiological responses to them.
Many studies show that passive or active involvement with nature such as through gardening or viewing a natural setting can have a have a positive impact on physical and mental health. This is corroborated by the thousands of people who actively take part in therapeutic horticultural projects, such as The Restart Project* in Glasgow and others all around Scotland coordinated by Trellis*, as well as home gardeners alike.
Scent too can play a big role in this improved health and emotional well being. I feel an uplifting sense when I am stopped in my tracks by a powerful scent and generally feel relaxed when sitting among plants - whether in my garden or a park or enveloped by them in a woodland.
Sense of smell is linked to the limbic system of the brain - a primitive area - and the area that is responsible for instinct; it drives behaviour, memory and emotions. Inhaling rose oil vapour has positive effect on brain activity and has been shown to have anti-depressive and has a calming influence, helping to reduce fatigue, stress and exhaustion (Mohibitabar et al., 2017). Positive psychological and physiological effects have also been measured in people inhaling floral scent naturally diffused from flowers (Jo et al., 2013).
Given that scent is linked to memory, combining scent with a positive experience, such as gardening, could have an even more powerful effect, especially if it happens again and again. The memory of that event can even be recalled by that same scent at another time, providing longer lasting effects of the positive experience.
Gentle moving whilst being stimulated visually and non-visually through sound, taste, touch and scent of plants and the natural environment is good for us physically and mentally. The longer we can spend in a plant-filled environment, especially one that stimulates all our senses, including scent, the better our health and emotional well-being will be.
So what are you waiting for - get out in your garden, into a local park or woodland and experience plants and nature on all its levels.
HAPPY SPENDING TIME WITH PLANTS!
#thehealingpowerofscent #therapeuticgardening #scentinthegarden #gardeningideas #longborder #RHSChatsworth #mentalhealthawareness #Trellis_Scotland @Trellis_Network @RestartProject1
*We are working in association with TRELLIS, which is the hub of a network of over 420 therapeutic gardening projects throughout Scotland that use gardening to enable thousands of people facing multiple disadvantages to improve their health and wellbeing. Trellis endorse the general benefits to health of gardening. For more information, see https://www.trellisscotland.org.uk
*The Restart Project is an NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde therapeutic gardening project concerned with Mental Health Recovery in Glasgow. For more information, see The Restart Project
Mohebitabar et al. 2017. Therapeautic efficacy of rose oil: A comprehensive review of clinical evidence. Avicenna J. Phytomed. Vol. 7 (3): 206-213.
Jo et al. 2013. Physiological and Psychological Response to Floral Scent. HortScience Vol. 48 (1): 82-88
The Healing Power of Scent
I'm delighted to announce that we were selected to exhibit a long border at RHS Chatsworth from 05 to 09 June 2019! We will be working with Scottish nursery-people (Binny's Plants; https://www.binnyplants.com) and a local craftsman, Chris Barrowman (http://www.fluxworx.com) to create our exhibit.
As mental health issues affect many of us at one time or another in our lives, our border will highlight the importance of scent in emotional well- being. Smell directly influences our emotional responses, memories and physiology, driving our behaviour at an instinctive and subconscious level. Inhalation of plant extracts is known to have a positive effect on brain activity. Rose oil vapour in particular is thought to have anti-depressive, calming and uplifting properties, helping to reduce fatigue, stress and exhaustion.
Central to this border is the iconic rose. A strongly scented variety is planted in a pattern resembling a brain-wave. An abstract metal brain-wave sculpture symbolises the direct affect of scent on our brains and subsequently how we feel. Supporting the rose are plants that stimulate other senses such as touch (foliage texture, especially grasses), sight (colour and aesthetics) and sound (rustling foliage and pollinators attracted to the flowers). These stimuli work together to create a positive interaction with plants and nature.
The Rose is just one of many scented plants that can be incorporated into our gardens. In addition to the enjoyment such fragrance brings is the potential to harness the power of smell to improve our emotional well-being.
People are often worried about having deep borders because that means more planting. Some come to me because they do not have the first clue about plants, especially how to look after them, so they initially shy away from lots of planting. However, my experience has been that these same people by the time we have worked through the design process together, they have taken a shine to their new garden and are really bonding with their plants. Some even help with the planting!
So, I say, bigger is better when it comes to borders. Deeper borders give plants the space to breathe and to show themselves in their best light. You only have to look at the borders in various country gardens to see how this works to best effect. Deep borders give impact to your garden through planting in swathes or layering so that you have successional flowering and interest all year.
So how deep is deep? A border should be at least 1.5 m depth. Any less and the plants will be in a single line. Think of a plant, say Astrantia, which has a spread of 60 cm and you want to put another plant behind that has similar spread - that’s the depth of the border almost full. But you don’t have to limit yourself to 1.5 m deep!
So what are you waiting for? Now is a great time to expand your existing borders and create new ones - just remember, be generous and you’ll be florally rewarded!
I also loved The Telegraph Garden designed by Andy Sturgeon and built by Crocus. Apparently so did the judges as this was awarded Gold and Best in Show. Whilst it used very architectural, even harsh lines that divided opinion, I thought it was balanced by the beautiful, naturalistic planting, which had a muted and restricted colour palette.
This garden drew inspiration from geological events with the bronze-coated steel 'fins' inspired by Stegosaurus! You could see the entire garden through framed views and site lines created by these 'fins'.
The fins also provided a wonderful backdrop to the plants.
And whilst the planting was inspired by an arid landscape comprising plants from warm, temperated climates across the globe, it was not a recreation of habitat. Like the Winton Beauty of Mathematics garden, the planting colours were harmonious with other aspects of the garden, with the orange flowers of the Isoplexis canariensis picking up the flames in the fire bowl and contrasting beautifully with the hard landscaping!
I was lucky enough to visit Chelsea this year on the first of the two RHS members only day and as ever, there was plenty of inspiration in all three of the show garden categories, as well as in the Floral marquee. Judging by the number of photos I took and my excitement for the garden, I loved the Winton Beauty of Mathematics garden designed by Nick Bailey and built by Gardenlink.
The garden immediately drew you in. It had depth as well as height in the form of both trees and elevated platform, the copper band that ran through the garden offered a focal point (as well as a bench, handrail and planter), but also a visual guide as your eyes meandered through the garden.
And then there was the planting...... beautifully naturalistic with a harmonious softness offered by the colours and forms of the plants and the materials used in the garden, and with enough repetition of colour and form to add highlights and punctuation.. It was a garden that you just wanted to get into and explore!