Casual Gardener: East Belfast garden makes perfect sense

The Bell Rotary Garden has been designed to appeal to all the senses

The Bell Rotary Garden has been conceived by landscape architect Anita Houston and executed by Beechill Landscapes (DARREN KIDD)

There’s a hierarchy of senses when it comes to enjoying a garden. The visual impact is perhaps the most important, followed by scent and touch. Yet gardens also stimulate us with sound, while growing things that we love to taste.

Sensory gardens are designed with all of the above in mind. A garden that encompasses sight, sound, scent, touch and taste has much more depth to it, ensuring fresh surprises for the senses with each season.

A recently created garden in east Belfast has elements that will appeal to the full sensory gambit.

The Bell Rotary Garden has been conceived by landscape architect Anita Houston and executed by Beechill Landscapes. It is located within the grounds of Bell Rotary House, a residence for the elderly on the King’s Road and part of the Abbeyfield Belfast Society portfolio.

The transformation of an underwhelming lawn into a multi-faceted garden was made possible thanks to a £54,800 grant from the Wolfson Foundation and a generous bequest from a previous resident.

“The ethos of Bell Rotary Garden is that there are gardens held within a garden, to create different experiences whilst promoting calmness and inspiration,” says Anita.

The two main colours featured in the Bell Rotary Garden are black and rust orange tones (DARREN KIDD)

“The brief was that the space would have a range of different uses by visitors of a wide range of ages, and I wanted to encourage residents, families and visitors alike to be drawn outside; to spend time in it and for it to be a pleasurable and relaxing space to be in, offering fun for all and also a space to enjoy by oneself, too.”

The re-landscaped space has been designed specifically for those living with sensory and mobility impairments.

From a ‘grow your own’ area complete with green houses and raised beds built with mobility in mind, to an endless circular path that encourages exploration and activity.

There’s also a family-friendly area built with elements for young people to enjoy and encourage visitors to stay longer.

The garden is dotted with a mixture of aromatic plants and herbs, from lavenders and sages to popping colours of agapanthus, alliums, red hot pokers, daylilies, hostas and fatsias, with texture added from tree ferns and palm trees.

The path surface is a yellow mixed resin material with a darker mix in the vegetable area to enhance the shapes of the different areas and create a smooth but textured aesthetic.

Black caned bamboos clothe the pergola to create different ‘rooms’ in the garden. Bamboos and grasses were chosen here because of their movement and sway in the breeze, creating a sense of calmness like waves on the beach, wafting floral smells through the air.

The two main colours featured are black and rust orange tones.

“Black offers a sharp continuity and contemporary feel, from the colour of the black stems of bamboo through to phormiums and right into the pergolas, fencing, seats and summer houses,” says Anita.

“Rust is carried from the corten steel used in the inspirational quote through to a water bowl feature, tree rings, and the planting of Karl Foerster throughout with rust-coloured plumes of grass, phormium grasses and flowers.”

Residents are being encouraged to embrace the space and add their own marks, whether through art or planting.

“The space will be enhanced over time through its produce for dining, flowers for enjoying, and the act of creating experiences, enjoying laughter, and encouraging communications with families, visitors and friends,” says Anita.