Sensory Garden

Sensory Garden plan

We have begun planting a ‘sensory garden’ in the raised area to the north of the car park. The hard landscaping (paths, seating and arbours – 'gazebos' on the plan above) is installed and the main shrubs have been planted and are becoming well established. We have also planted roses, some climbers to cover the arbours (and others to grow up into surrounding trees), two low lavender hedges, and four grape vines (trained on wires).

The layout of the garden is based on some designs by children at a primary school near Poitiers, France, who swapped designs with The Bythams School (the French school has built a garden in its grounds based on the Bythams’ pupils’ designs). At that time there was nowhere at the Bythams School for the French design to be constructed, so it was decided to make it part of The Spinney.

The garden will be completed in several phases. There is a diamond-shaped, semi-formal central bed, now planted up with a number of low-growing blue and white bulbs and other plants around a central "fountain" of Miscanthus grass (to suggest the water feature in the French children's design, which is, unfortunately, impractical in this situation). Apart from this, the planting will mainly be informal and rather ‘wild’ in appearance, to suit its location in a semi-wild woodland. It uses a range of fragrant and colourful plants to provide points of interest throughout the year.

We have used species that we believe are not usually eaten by rabbits and deer, but which will, we hope, be attractive to other wildlife – as well as to humans! Research has shown that many non-native plants can be just as valuable to our British wildlife as native species, and that some provide nectar and pollen at times of year when there is nothing available from native plants.

It has been necessary to use guards around most of the plants to protect them from damage by grazing animals while they get established. The lavender hedge has proved irresistible to rabbits, so its tunnel of chicken wire will probably have to remain in position permanently – fortunately the wire is the same colour as the lavender foliage!

In spring 2010 the two flat flowerbeds at the front of the garden were sown with a mixture of colourful annuals that gave interest from late summer until the first frosts. For 2011 we plan to use a similar mix, but hope to sow it earlier (weather permitting), with an underplanting of lily-flowered tulips for spring interest. These two beds will probably be used to experiment with different planting ideas for a few years until a final permanent planting scheme is decided upon.