GOOD SENSE OF GARDENS
The senses are what a plant, garden or panoramic landscape is all about. We smell, touch, see and hear it (have you ever listened to bamboo creaking like the rigging of an old sailing ship or the gentle breeze over plumes of grass/flowers?).
Helen Keller learned how to extend her sense of feeling at the loss of her sight and hearing when she was two.
They say the remaining senses reach a more acute response at the loss of others. But Helen had a few helpers who wrote or spelt words on her hand and helped her learn to communicate with braille.
There is a terrific photo of Helen ‘feeling’ roses with the help of her lifetime friend, Ann Sullivan, who had also been blind but eventually regained her sight.
Can you imagine finding your way around a garden with no sight?
There’s a story that Helen Keller thought a cactus was the most violent of plants.
Sensory gardens have been around for a long time. The Moors were excellent citrus growers and (again) the story goes that many of them who were gardeners could tell who had been in which grove, simply by the smell of their clothes.
To have never seen a plant but be able to describe it would be an am amazingg thing.
John Wilkinson was a grocer, who lost his sight at age 22. He went on to become a famous botanist.
He simply licked the edges of the plant’s leaf to get a start on the identification. No doubt he had the odd surprise or two – the surprise of feeling the sandpaper-like leaf of a purple wreath vine (Petrea volubilis, more commonly called tropical wisteria) or the soft downy leaves of some of the costus species that feel like your best pet are some interesting garden experiences.
Grabbing a thorny euphorbia or a bougainvillea is predictable. But others, like the Calamus palms (wait-a-while) can hook you up quite seriously if you get caught admiring their foliage too closely.