OK, right off the bat, I’m not a mathematician or physicist. If I were, and I started talking about a fourth dimension, I’d be talking about something like “spacetime” or maybe some sort of Euclidian tubal theory thing.
But I’m just a simple gardener. And a designer. That place where the designer in me and the gardener in me comes together knows that there’s more to experiencing a space than the things that can be described in the 3 spacial dimensions that we usually think about.
For example, when I walk through a garden, while my eyes experience the visual spacial layout of the garden, my nose is busy crawling through the scents that the garden dangles at the end of my nostrils. I’ll often stop and close my eyes, and enjoy a olfactory treat dancing in my head.
While my mathematics and physics friends will smile condescendingly and tell me that there is a difference between a “dimension” and a “sense”, I guess I’d like to argue that point when it comes to designing for people – especially designing gardens.
We don’t just see a garden, we experience it. Our eyes are part of that experience, but so are our other senses. In my mind, the first 3 dimensions of experience are visual, after which we move into the other dimensions.
Smell is the 4th dimension in my mind. Scientists tell us that our olfactory sense is the sense that’s the most “persuasive” on our brain. We all know how a smell that we associate with something can transport our mind powerfully to that thing we associate the smell with.
And there’s no palette on earth as rich for the olfactory designer as the garden. Why on earth shouldn’t we be thinking with our noses when we design a garden?
One of the things we like to do is line walkways with lavender when we can. The lavender grows out over the walkway, and get’s brushed against and crushed as people walk by, releasing the strong smell of fresh lavender. Thyme can do the same thing, though it’s not as powerful an odor.
Early June in Colorado is the time for the Iris and the Lilacs, two plants drip sweet smells whenever you get close tot them. Lilac is a big shrub, and we like to plant it next to raised decks, so that as it grows it reaches up into the deck area, and the smell can invade that space. Bearded (or German) Iris are perfect next to patios where there smell will be welcome on those early summer evenings enjoying the end of the day.
Design decisions shouldn’t be made in a vacuum. Don’t forget that 4th dimension – nose – when working through a garden design.