top of page
Image by Janine Joles


(c) Linda Hutchison April 2016

“Lavender” said Hayley, approvingly, as she breathed deeply.
“Something easy to start with.” replied Sandra smiling, “Now take a step forward and reach to your right.”
Hayley obliged and reached for the edge of the garden bed to steady herself, unaccustomed to being sightless. She breathed in again and her cheeks rounded in appreciation.
“Honeysuckle! Gorgeous.”
“Now to your left.”
Hayley took a gentle sniff then thought for a moment. “Gardenia?” “Spot on!”
Sandra gently tugged at Hayley’s hand and led her forward a few more steps. “Try down a bit lower this time.”
Hayley bent down to the edge of the raised bed. “Mmmm – maybe violets?”
She felt for their trailing tell-tale leaves. The heart-shape confirmed their identity. “This really is an adventure for your nose, isn’t it?”
“Just as you had planned.” agreed Sandra. “Let’s try the next bed, but this time keep hold of my hands.”
Hayley grinned, as she guessed immediately what she was about to experience. She walked slowly forward under Sandra’s guidance, then paused and filled her lungs with air.
“Joy, oh joy, oh joy!” she clapped her hands appreciatively. “Roses, and they would have to be Double Delight. I’d know that scent anywhere. It always reminds me of lemonade.”
“We dedicated this bed and the next to roses because they are such a favourite with people and they suit this climate so well. See if you can guess the next one. Take four steps forward.”
Hayley followed Sandra’s lead then paused again. She relaxed then inhaled, slowly savouring the fragrance. She thought for a moment, tossing up between a couple of old favourites. “Papa Meilland?” she said eventually, imagining the deep red velvety petals. Sandra laughed quietly and approvingly.
“You’re very good, for your first time. Now we’ll walk forward about 20 paces then a bit to the right.”
Here the path seemed to dip a little and Hayley could feel that the air around her had changed. “Are these the open beds?” she asked.
“Yes, we were able to include four of them. Let’s see how you go with this challenge.”
Hayley sensed the damp earth and imagined the mulch, leaves and tiny garden creatures. She inhaled and smirked. “Now you’re trying to involve my stomach!” she said “Helichrysum italicum. How do you protect it from the frosts?”
“We’ve planted the curry plant and a couple of others in the shelter of a large tree.” answered Sandra. “And they seem to be thriving, although the worst frosts are yet to appear. We’re hopeful.” She beamed at Hayley, who could sense Sandra’s joy through the tone of her voice.
“Okay, you have three more plants to identify here before we move on.” challenged Sandra. Hayley shuffled forward, her arm tucked securely into Sandra’s. She breathed in deeply again, then went to reach over her head for a stray blossom or two before realising that she could hear bees. She carefully tucked her hand away again.
“I’m guessing some form of Buddleja? Are there butterflies about?”
“Only around 30.” chuckled Sandra “and there are three colours of flower – white, red and pink for our sighted clients.”
Hayley went on and correctly identified Daphne and Viburnum, before moving to the next set of beds. Sandra introduced the final challenge.
“This section is more interactive. Reach to your right and take a leaf.”
Hayley felt for the plant and gently plucked a tender, smooth leaf. She bruised it lightly with her fingers, then held it to her nose. She nodded happily. “Basil.”  
“Try three more.”
Hayley felt among the plants for different shapes and textures, locating curly-leaved parsley, coriander and sage. Her smile grew with every find. “This is just sensational. I’m overawed. It’s better than I’d ever hoped for.”
Returning to their starting point, Sandra led Hayley to a bench. “Well, our test run is over. You can take off your mask now.”
Hayley reached up and removed the device covering her eyes. She blinked to adjust to the light of the laboratory. “No way!” she exclaimed. “I could have sworn I was in the garden! It was laid out exactly as I’d specified it in the design.”
“Yes, except with SEED 2030, our new simulated environmental enrichment device, we no longer need gardeners. We don’t have to worry about the frailer or blind members of our village falling over or catching their legs on stray stalks, and seasons are no longer an issue.”
Hayley blinked again, as if she could change the original outcome of opening her eyes. “Well I’m staggered – I felt the leaves and could hear the bees, smell the damp earth. And I was certain you were with me.” She fell silent, overwhelmed.
“It was all virtual – just like your blindness.” confirmed Sandra.
“I think I’d rather fall over…” said Hayley quietly to herself. She’d hoped that in designing an interactive, fragrant garden for the retirement village she would have been giving the residents a chance to escape outdoors for a while, rather than escaping into their heads. Clearly, in this day and age, the adage was “Why make it when you can fake it.” She promised herself that before she was too much older, she would build herself a petite house in the country with the perfect cottage garden, masses of veggies, and a rambling oak tree and swing, and give herself as much opportunity to feel really alive as possible.

Fragrance: Work
bottom of page