The secret to a welcoming backyard retreat is to layer multiple sensory stimulants in a way that is relaxing yet invigorating. This means tapping into your senses of sight, smell, touch, taste and sound. The following are a few ways to awaken each of these senses through your landscape design.
A combination of natural beauty and creative hardscaping will delight the eyes. Brightly colored flowers against natural stone, attractive wood decking contrasted against bright green grass, or sparkling water in a fountain with a curtain of green vines behind all provide contrast that helps to soothe yet interest the visual senses. Although you want some contrast, you don't want items to clash or be too jarring. Opt to contrast neutrals and natural tones against the more vibrant colors found in nature.
When most people think of integrating the sense of smell into their landscape design, fragrant flowers are the first things that come to mind. Roses, lilacs, and jasmine are some of the most aromatic of the garden flowers, with a scent that can waft a fair distance and permeate an entire yard. Consider planting a cutting garden filled with fragrant flowers near the areas of the yard you are most likely to congregate, such as near benches and patios.
Texture is another vital part of a successful garden. Rough garden stones and soft carpets of moss or creeping time, for example, encourage one to feel the various features of the garden both literally and figuratively. Plant a variety of textures in the garden – smooth leaved hostas, fuzzy lamb's ears, and lacy queen Anne's lace leaves all add an attractive texture tot he garden that begs to be touched.
Don't overlook taste in the landscape. Even in a nearly purely decorative design you can add a few herbs, fruits, or vegetables that add both beauty and flavor. A small cherry or apple tree is a delight whether it's flowering or fruiting. Honeysuckle flowers can be a sweet treat on a summer day. An herb garden featuring beautiful and flavorful plants like flowering chives, dusty-leaved sage, or bright umbrellas of yellow dill flowers is another way to integrate taste into the design.
Sound is often overlooked. Naturally, you should include some bird feeders into the design to help attract the natural sounds of songbirds. A fountain or other water feature can also provide a relaxing layer of sound, since running water is one of the most pleasant of background noises. Another option is to hang quality aluminum windchimes around the garden. The soft tinkle that a gentle breeze invokes makes these a suitable addition, especially when there is a lack of bird song.