Ask Elaine: Sensory Garden Plantings

What and how are the plants selected for the Sensory Garden at Laurelwood Arboretum? I like the raised beds and themes.

Thank you,

Dear Mary,

I am glad that you like our Sensory Garden. It is one of the most popular spots for visits and photographs at Laurelwood Arboretum. 

The background plants will vary from year-to-year, depending on what we have overwintered in our greenhouses or what we purchased at local wholesale greenhouse growers. We plant cannas as an impact plant in the back of the Sensory Garden. Along the parking lot side, we have some lilacs, vitex, hibiscus and fall-blooming goldenrod. Near the water feature is a large sweep of lamb’s ear, calla lily, gay feather and catmint. Closer to the Knippenberg Center for Education is a collection of hosta and catmint, both herbaceous perennials.  

We have four raised beds and three other planting beds. Each of the four raised beds are identified by a large painted rock. The TOUCH bed has smooth succulents like jade, hens-and-chicks and sedum. River rocks edge the quadrant. The TASTE bed includes herbs like basil, chocolate mint, sage and thyme. This bed also has stevia and edible nasturtiums. In the SIGHT bed, you will find colorful geraniums, veronica, 4 o’clocks, and flowering maple. The SMELL bed has more scented geraniums, Vicks plant, lemon verbena and oriental lily. The plants in the raised bed are overwintered in our greenhouses.  Very few plants are purchased. We are definitely thrifty!

The Lavender Bed has English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) with the cultivars ‘Grosso,’ ‘Hidcote,’  and ‘Munstead.’ The lavender shares the bed with Santolina (lavender cotton). 

The Tropical Bed has banana, coleus, red hibiscus, dracaena, agapanthus, vitex, brugmansia, and plumbago. All of these plants need to be overwintered in the greenhouse because the plants are not hardy in our cold winters.

Watch for butterflies and bees in our Pollinator Bed. We have three types of Asclepias: tuberosa (butterfly weed), incarnata (swamp milkweed), and curassavica (tropical milkweed). Also, notice the Baptisia, a spring-blooming herbaceous perennial with attractive blue flowers.

Enjoy the Sensory Garden. Bring your camera.

Elaine Fogerty, Executive Director

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