Gardening naturally stimulates our senses: the smell of wet soil, the sound of a cooing dove in the distance, the feeling of warm sun kisses on our skin, and early morning dew drops so fresh we can almost taste it! Children, however, may need a little more encouragement to engage with nature in this way. Luckily, Life is a Garden is bringing you some inspiration this August to create an indulging sensory experience for your kids, filled with adventure and exploration. We’re talking all about stimulating your child’s senses through a natural playscape environment in your own backyard or school playground.
Sight: A great attention grabber is through striking visual stimuli. A garden that looks visibly interesting with a variety of colours, textures, and a few intriguing items should get their curiosity going. Create an obstacle course by incorporating different sized tree stumps or rocks as stepping stones over some dangerous lava looking succulents and spikey grass. An outdoor dollhouse or treasure chest under a tree may further inspire imaginative play.
Plant picks: Rooiblaarplakkie (Kalanchoe sexangularis) is a hardy succulent, perfect as a lava substitute. Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) are big, bold, and beautiful cut-flowers. Starlight grass (Anthericum) brings in strong texture and contrast for the rugged garden warrior.
Sound: Incorporating both natural and man-made sound stimulation is easier than you may think. A DIY hand shaker project with some dried seeds or stones inside empty spice bottles may motivate the kinesthetically inclined child to engage their sense of sound. Wind chimes will become an ambient focal point during the August winds too. A water feature may help to encourage more gentle playtime and promote an awareness of subtle and calming sounds. Alternatively, you could even start a buzzing bee hotel for the gogo-loving garden explorer!
Smell: Encouraging kids to literally stop and smell the roses is so important in cultivating an ethos of appreciation and conservation in the new generation. Thankfully, engaging their sense of smell is rather easy to achieve with such an aromatic variety of plants available. Creating a DIY potpourri experimentation station is a hands-on strategy to develop their noses while opening up a space for real connection and engagement with organic floral scents.
Plant picks: Angel's Trumpet (Brugmansia) for kids who like to get right under and in there. Plumerias (Frangipani, Pua Melia) are as pretty as their perfume. Picking petals from Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) is fantastic for fine motor skills. Rosemary, Lavender, and Mint are tried favourites too.
Taste: Grouping edible flowers, berries, and herbs together in a large container allow kids safe and easy access to taste and explore some home-grown goodness. Creating a little chef station nearby will not only engage and develop taste buds, but can also be used as an opportunity to instil responsibility and purpose. Get the kids to pick herbs for dinner, give them the chore of watering the edible garden, or simply allow them free reign to cook up some tasty herb, berry, and mud cakes for the fairies and gnomes.
Plant picks: Basil is a taste explosion and good for stimulating little pallets. Gooseberries (Ribes uva-crispa) are fun to pick and loaded with nutrients. Wild Malva (Pelargonium culallatum) is a colourful treat because who wouldn’t want to eat a flower! And of course, there are strawberries, which have come to please even the fussiest of eaters.
Touch: Let’s reward curiosity by welcoming your child’s obsession to touch everything! A row of varying sized and angled PVC pipes against a wall provides endless opportunities for car races and hours of poking and prodding through the openings with pretty much whatever they can get their hands on – and that’s exactly what we want! Expose them to even more textures with a little squirting water feature and a variety of spikey, smooth, fury, and rough foliage.
Plant picks: Most aloes are nice and spikey with enough hardiness to withstand a little educational probing. Lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina) is a lovely choice for something fury. Try bringing in some Asparagus Fern (Asparagus plumosus) for a fine-feeling climber between your pipe-play wall.
Independent play and opportunities for exploration-based discoveries are an important part of childhood. Can you imagine what this sort of sensory playscape environment, filled with cool stuff, would have meant for you as a child? From edible gardens to wind chimes and treacherous lava floors, there is something to appeal to every child’s interest and all their senses. No one knows your child like you do, so put those creative green fingers to work and remember - if you build it, they will come!
Why stop at gumboots and sun hats? This month we’re talking all about taking your passion for gardening to the bedroom, living room, office, and everywhere else! Life is a Garden is helping you bring the outdoors- indoors, with a few fabulous ideas, tips and trends, and a whole lot of greenspiration to help you create a gardening sanctuary where ever you go. We’ve also included some perfectly suited plant picks to get you going, which are all indigenous and waiting for you at your local GCA Garden Centre.
Bring the garden inside with you and create a living, green wall of wonder! Vertical gardening is super stylish and brings texture, sophistication, and a sense of thriving abundance into your space. Green walls can consist of multiple indoor plant varieties, which can be grown using panels and hydroponics on free-standing structures or against a wall. Alternatively, you can also use soil containers mounted against a wall, which will soon be covered by your beautiful creepers and climbers.
A living wall in your home is a striking, visual buffet of lushness! In addition, they are great air purifiers and assist in keeping your home cool during summer. Consider creating your green wall in an area with good light and ventilation, such as the living room or bathroom where plants can absorb moisture from the air. Watering your wall may be done using misters, a light spray bottle, or a watering can with a long spout.
Plant picks: String of Beads (Senecio rowleyanus) for hardy and handsome hanging, Large Forest Asparagus(Asparagus falcatus) for a textured climber, and Flowering Ivy (Senecio macroglossus) for a fabulous little creeper.
Getting away from the hustle and bustle is as easy as pot, plant, tree! Create your own indoor sanctuary by decorating with easily accessible, indigenous, and affordable natural elements. Group pot plants and hanging baskets together for a jungle-inspired corner, use succulents with bold features and textures as grand centrepieces, or drape shelves, racks, and even shower frames with a few curious climbers. Breathe life into a corner of a room by bringing your favourite tree inside with you, or showcasing a friendly variety of ferns.
Put your creativity and decorating skills to the test by mixing things up a little! Try combining these natural elements with a few man-made, familiar favourites: Shards of bark inside glass candle holders, interesting river stones assembled around basins with a few succulents for fun, shells and dried coral arrangements, twisting fairy lights around pine cones and dried flowers such as Proteas. You may find that attention to detail really helps to cultivate the indoor garden experience and drive the overall natural theme of the space.
Plant picks: Wild Banana tree (Strelitzia nicolai) for a tropical feel, Baboon Grape (Rhoicissus digitate) for a colourful creeper, and Dagger-Leaf (Sansevieria pearsonii) for a striking, textured feature plant.
Bringing the outdoors in has many wonderful health benefits for the body, mind, and certainly the soul! Indoor plants improve air quality by acting as natural air purifiers. Better air means better breathing for our lungs. An increase of good, clean oxygen improves concentration, mental clarity, enhanced energy levels, boosts in happiness, and even helps us sleep better. Incorporating more plants into your workspace increases productivity and helps brighten up those blue Monday’s.
Caring for leafy lives is an effective way of channelling anxiety and stress into a nurturing outlet. Caring for a bonsai, for example, teaches great patience and inner calmness. Create a soothing and harmonic space that nurtures your soul, connects you with Mother Nature, and reminds you to stop and smell the roses – as they say. The heart always feels better with love, so why not invest in a life of love giving and receiving by inviting nature’s nurses into every space possible!
Plant picks: Spekboom (Portulacaria afra) for an excellent indoor air purifier, Bush Lily (Clivia miniata) for a flowering pot of happiness, and Veld fig (Ficus burtt-davyi) bonsai to help you get your Zen on.
With so many creative possibilities and health benefits of indoor gardening, it’s easy to appreciate the simplicity and practicality of bringing the outdoors to your inside spaces. Your local GCA Garden Centres have a variety of indoor plants to choose from that can help you to cultivate a space of green glory where ever you spend your time. Transform your sitting room into a real living room and create a place of grace, even in your office! For more gardening trends and inspiration visit us on Instagram.