The impact of gardens and landscapes on property value is a commonplace topic within industry and media alike. But what about the more intrinsic benefits associated with outdoor spaces – the potential for gardens and outdoor living areas to transform minds, bodies and souls?
Founder and creative director of Landart Landscapes, Matt Leacy, recently put this idea into practice when he transformed an atrium for cancer patients at Sydney Adventist Hospital.
Speaking of the project, Matt said “We know that gardens and nature can have valuable therapeutic and restorative benefits on people, and we wanted to bring garden elements into the hospital to hopefully assist the physical and mental wellbeing of patients.”
Taking this idea beyond hospital environments, Matt believes that anyone can find restorative benefits in outdoor spaces – from reflection and relaxation to tranquillity and healing. It’s all about bringing senses alive with different materials, deigns, colours, scents and sounds.
And proving the benefits of working with nature further, gardeners and florists were found to be the happiest of all professions according to UK economist and behavioural scientist Professor Paul Dolan, who released a book Happiness by Design last year.
“Plants and flowers can help to bring a sensory garden to life – offering comfort, relaxation and stimuli,” says Matt.
“There are a number of flowers and plants that appeal strongly to the touch sense. For instance. textured plants like Lamb’s Ears, Banksias and Adenanthos
“The same goes for plants that naturally scent outdoor spaces,” Matt adds. “There are some stunning flowers that work to perfume outdoor areas including sweet alyssum, honey-scented white flowers, gardenia, jasmine, frangipani, port wine magnolia and Daphnes. Break off a leaf of the lemon scented myrtle and keep it in your pocket and then you can savor it all day.
“For health and healing, you can’t go past Eucalyptus,” Matt adds. “Eucalyptus can be grown in pots and used to scent patios, decks and other outdoor living areas.
“Another favourite is Aloe vera plants, which can be planted in sunny garden aspects, as well as pots and hanging baskets. Aloe vera is great for soothing sun-burns, stings and bites – and it also doubles as a wonderful natural insect repellent.”
“For both taste and scent, organic herb gardens and veggie patches are definite winners,” Matt says. “Both can be grown in traditional garden landscapes, as well as smaller areas like balconies, rooftop gardens and atriums.”
“For a veggie patch, all you really need is a small patch of land with good quality soil. Alternatively, you can buy relatively cheap above-ground vegetable boxes from most local garden retailers.
“In terms of year-round veggie patch plantings, iceberg lettuce, snow peas and kale are top choices, as well as spinach, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes,” says Matt.
“Through herb gardens, you can reap the benefits of scent, colour and adaptability,” adds Matt. “Pots and planter boxes can be used, so you don’t need a great deal of space.
“You can also grow whatever herbs appeal most to your wants and senses – whether they’re aromatic classics like basil, mint, parsley, thyme, rosemary, chives or trendier herbs with health benefits such as stevia, turmeric, ginseng, Echinacea and maca.
“And aside from the fresh produce you reap, the cultivation process itself can be very positive for the mind, body and spirit,” adds Matt.
“Gardening offers many people a creative and immersive outlet to escape the stresses of everyday life.
“Many people also find it rewarding to toil over something and see it come to life. And if you’re working in bigger spaces, you can get a lot of incidental exercise,” adds Matt.
“And all the while, you can reap the benefits of home-grown chemical-free, additive-free fruits, vegetables and herbs.”
“Landscape design also has a massive impact on the way an outdoor space feels,” says Matt.
“For example, we always try to integrate fences in ways that don’t cut off landscapes and create hard barriers. You want your area to have multiple facets and dimensions, but you don’t want to close the space off completely and make it feel smaller,” Matt says.
“To this end, we often employ boundary screening plants and slender weaving bamboo. We also try to use winding paths rather than direct tracks to inject positive energy into the space, and colours that blend with natural tones – natural stone or hardwood timber decking, for instance”
Kick back and relax in these outdoor spaces, tailor-made for relaxing: