Do you like contrast in your garden?

How does your sense of smell respond to nature? How does your vision, your hearing, your sense of touch? You're a one-of-a-kind individual, with very personal responses to everything outdoors.

As you stop and allow yourself to melt into nature, your senses carry you into relaxation, release of stress, ease and refreshment.

Knowing the special ways that your senses respond is vital for managing stress and restoring your creative spirit at any age.

For me, one clear visual response is contrast. Contrast catches my attention and causes me to slow down and really notice what's happening in the garden.

I can puzzle over how it happened

I can think about how I might want to do the same thing in another spot.

Or I can just sit down to enjoy it, letting myself use the garden as an excuse for leisure. (This is a good reason for some moveable seating!)

Here are two examples of what's been included in my garden to allow contrast to happen among my plants.

[PIC] A small clump of red oxblood lilies poking up through the green spiky leaves of sotol
[PIC] A small clump of red oxblood lilies poking up through the green spiky leaves of sotol

 The first example is the surprise of oxblood lilies blooming under a sotol. Oxblood lilies bloom in the fall, typically in September. After blooming, they sprout leaves that grow all winter to nourish the bulbs. They disappear in summer's heat. Both lily blossoms and sotol leaves are linear. The contrast happens in three ways - size, texture, and color.

  • Oxblood lily blooms are about 4 inches long, while the sotol is 3 feet across.
  • The lily petals are soft, while the sotol leaves have tiny sharp spines on the edges.
  • The lily blossoms are red, while the sotol leaves are solidly green.

In this case, I planted lilies elsewhere. But these lilies planted themselves with no help - or planning - from me.

Another example is a plant I did place deliberately. The Texas sage, also called Texas ranger or cenizo, blooms after rain. There's no specific amount of rain that triggers blooms. What a surprise on a recent cool morning to check the bird feeder for refilling and to discover this shrub covered with flowers. Talk about contrast from earlier in the week!

One friend says that cenizo is as boring as a beige sofa unless it's in bloom. Her sensory reactions - and her yard - are just right for her.

Lavender blossom covered cenizo shrub
Lavender blossom covered cenizo shrub

But I like cenizos for more than blooms.They can fit in a clump next to bright green or big-leafed shrubs for continual contrast, even at a distance. They are perfect near the walkway because I enjoy touching the short soft fuzz on the leaves when I walk by.

Plants aren't really controllable, no matter how much we plan, and dig, and edge, and prune, and fertilize. Sometimes we can predict how plants will grow. And we can use what we know about digging and edging and pruning and fertilizing to encourage plant growth. But there's always an element of surprise.

For me, contrast - and surprise - are important tools to trigger a visual response and shift me into a more thoughtful, almost meditative mood good for relaxation and creativity.

What is a visual trigger outdoors for you? Or a visual memory you'd like to add to your garden? Let me know what you think.