Ask Elaine: What Happened to the Sensory Garden?

Dear Elaine,

I haven’t been to Laurelwood Arboretum for a few months. When I returned at the end of October, the Sensory Garden was gone! What happened?


Dear Gary,

I’m glad that you had the opportunity to see the Sensory Garden in the summer, at its best. We had lots of annuals (cleome, salvia, coleus, verbena and more), tender perennials (calla lily, 4 o’clock), tropicals (banana, datura, plumbago, canna, elephant ears), herbs (rosemary, sage, scented geraniums, mint, parsley, thyme, lavender), and raised stone quadrants of plants for four senses (sight, sound, smell and taste).

Many of our tender plants would die in the cold winter, so in mid-October, before an autumn frost, we dismantle the garden.

Due to our limited budget, we dig and pot up as many of the plants as possible and over winter them in the heated Educational Greenhouse, next to the Knippenberg Center for Education.  The plants are cared for by our winter greenhouse team every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. They check for water needs and any incidence of insect or disease problems. The greenhouse is also used for propagating plants and seeding. The Sensory Garden will come back to a vibrant and colorful life in mid-May, after all danger of a spring frost has passed.

Homeowners do not need a greenhouse to overwinter their own cold-sensitive plants. You need a sunny window.  Remove dead leaves and check for insects. Place the plant near the window, set back a bit, and water when the soil is dry. No fertilizer until March 21. Turn the plant every three or four weeks. You may be able to enjoy some color indoors from your overwintering plants!

Don’t be a stranger, Gary. There are lots of things happening at Laurelwood Arboretum. Be on the look-out for construction of art work that will be part of our Sculpture Trail in 2020.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Elaine Fogerty, Executive Director

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