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Just-mulched flower beds and freshly mowed grass are nice, but it doesn’t take long for those sweet smells to fade. Musky shade, aromatic greenery, hot stones, crunchy gravel—those are the kinds of garden elements that appeal to our senses all spring and summer long. It turns out you can organize your yard totally around feeling all the feels. New York–based landscape firm Balmori Associates came up with an outdoor setup that’s all about appealing to the senses, and it will be one of five winning designs (there were 160 to start) that will appear at the annual International Garden Festival this June in Grand-Métis, Quebec. 


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Dubbed Choose Your Own Adventure, a rendering of the proposed plan shows multiple rows of squares, each one representing a feeling or sensation, like humid, cool, soft, breezy, and shady. “Rethinking our connection to nature, after living in lockdown, can start with appreciating natural phenomena,” the company says in its project summary. It might seem far-fetched, but there are simple ways you can implement some of the core elements of the winning layout out in your own backyard. Here are four ideas to execute.

Compartmentalize With Boxes

Streamlined pathways are key to Balmori Associates’s landscapes, and there’s no better way to achieve that than with raised beds. At Camilla Blackett’s Los Angeles home, kale, rainbow chard, carrots, zucchini, cucumbers, eggplant, and tomatoes are spread out and situated high off the ground so she doesn’t have to bend over to enjoy the scent of fruit or grab a snack. 

Separate the Zen Zone From the Planting Area

Consuelo Pierrepont Spitler broke her backyard up into zones that spark various actions. There’s a spot just for dining, a corner for swimming, and then a serene rock garden with a firepit for chatting. Separating the chill space from the hardworking veggie garden helps foster and clearly define different experiences. 

Appeal to Sound With Rustling Grasses

So what does crunchy actually mean for your space? Think: long grass that sways in the wind. In addition to being aesthetically pleasing, meadows also come with eco-friendly benefits—they can help sustain native wildlife. 

Find Your Place in the Shade

Don’t forget a spot to cool off. Nick Spain showed us how to master the ultimate shade garden with his plans for four trees (which will eventually be pruned into large columns) and spherical boxwoods of various sizes. He also intends to pepper in native cultivars of cimicifuga and heuchera that could easily creep in over time. Bonus: They’ll help support the local pollinator population.

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