Gardens – A Visual, Sensory & Memory Delight

Members article

By Jane Verity © Dementia Care International

Herbs and flowers in a garden can often bring to mind memories of bygone meals and other gardens that a person with dementia may have once enjoyed. Italian cooks and gardeners might recognise the evocative scent of basil and the strong smell of tomatoes, bringing to life another place and time. At planting time, it is important to choose plants that are visually stimulating as well as culturally appropriate. Plants like red chillies are particularly stimulating.

Scents can be incredibly reminiscent and bring the past and people to mind. Roses are a good example of plants which are easy to maintain, and rose oil is uplifting to the spirit too. Care may be needed in selecting rose varieties to be aware of thorns. Lavender can be relaxing and might be planted in a low hedge, in a raised bed, so you can run your hands through the foliage. Rubbing hands through foliage can be encouraged with the right plantings.

Recommended fragrant plants include orange trees with their superb orange blossom, eucalyptus and lemon trees. Bruised lemon tree leaves send out a glorious aroma. Chamomile lawns are delightful for their fragrance, though their planting may not be practical in a facility garden. Think of all the sensory delights – smells, scents and visual appeal – when planning fresh beds or plantings for a new facility garden.

Gardens can often spark pleasant interactions, both physical and verbal. A stroll arm-in-arm down the garden path can be a perfect opportunity for touch, closeness and evoking memories. Whenever possible, involve the person with dementia in the care, enjoyment and delight a garden can give. The fresh air, heady aromas and visual delights might inspire a memory or just be a beautiful moment in the present. The power and joy of a garden lingers long as a special delight for all to share.