Ideas to design, plan and build a Sensory garden for home and school
We experience more sensations than the five senses. Gravity, temperature, space and enclosure are some of them. I have tried to list some ideas that highlight the many different sensory experiences you may want plan in when designing, planning, building and creating a Sensory garden .
With a few design changes, a sensory garden can also be a good place for people with Alzheimer's and other dementia.
Plants and materials for designing and building a sensory garden
Looking and seeing òó
Plants offer a complete spectrum of colour and foliage, changing and providing interest throughout the seasons. Flowers, leaves, bark, berries, lichens and mosses all give the richness and changing colour essential in a Sensory garden. Bright colours, such as red and yellow, are cheery and stimulating to the eyes. They will add excitement and interest to the garden.
For children, plants like zinnias, marigolds, red-hot pokers, blanket flowers, butterfly plants, and sunflowers add exciting colours and attract bees and butterflies to the garden.
Hard landscaping also provides colour as well as texture, stone, old brick, gravel, slate any new or reclaimed materials can be used to create patterns of colour mosaics, murals, paving. The changes in appearance and colour of hard landscaping in rain and sunshine are interesting to the eye.
Its key to include moving objects and plants into your design. Movement can be both stimulating and relaxing and can provide sight, movement and sound. Aspen, willow, grasses, mobiles, chimes, animals, ponds, moving sculptures all provide movement. Some should be reachable so that people touch and move them. Place wind activated items in places likely to receive some breeze.
Contrast in a sensory garden design is particularly valuable for partially sighted people. Hard surfaces, kerbs and edgings made from different textures and materials. Soft flowers and foliage contrasting with Hollies and berries etc.
Most natural and man made materials can be used in Sensory garden design plans. Some of the simple, distinctive shapes are best, like the bark and leaves of sycamore, beech, ash and the bonus of the experience of taste with fruits like apples, currants, rose hips. Flowers like daisy, poppy, bell flowers provide both shape and colour. Stems, bamboo canes, round, square, rectangular paving, seating and plant containers all add shape to a sensory garden. Shapes, circular flowers, cubic containers, oval fruits, triangular ivy leaves
These can provide fascinating effects . Regular patterns are made with brick work, paving, cobbles, fencing and placement of dandelion clocks and pine cones. Random patterns can be made with bark (plane, birch, eucalyptus), variegated leaves, log piles (good for insects) and even a compost heap (good for the garden too)
Listening and hearing
Listening is calming as well as interesting, try to build in sounds that are natural and some that can be activated into the design of your sensory garden. Natural sounds are the beutifull sound of leaves rustling in the wind, birds singing, water trickling and splashing and raindrops pitter pattering on windows and roofs. Remember the sensation of feeling safe and dry when taking cover in a rainstorm ? Activated sounds include water features and striking chimes etc.
Feeling and touching
Think of the different textures you feel at home, in town and in the country. Soft sand, cotton, rough surfaces, lichens, stone wall, bark, smooth pebbles, polished wood, leaves, flower petals, ridged textured concrete, backs of leaves, hairy animals, leaves such as Stachys, buds, grass, bumpy cobbles, twigs.
Weight light bark, heavy clay etc.
Temperature (sun-warmed water, cold shaded water; stone next to soil.
Wet and dry moist and dry soil/sand, freshly shed leaves and older dry ones.
Contrasting densities hard stone and soft moss. Lamb's ear with its soft leaves is good for kids to feel as are strawflower and Chinese lantern.
Spiky grasses add texture too.Kids also like the feathery ferns and the feather-like blooms of gayfeather and liatris.
Smelling and Scent
Scented plants are the first thing we think about in a sensory garden design, but there are other materials that have distinctive and interesting smells. I can think of pond water, wood shavings, autumn leaves, cut grass, wet soil, fresh mown hay, stone, leaves and compost heaps, the smell of a well maintained compost heap can be nice and earthy.
When you are choosing plants for your sensory garden designs,select plants for there different types of scent. Scents that fill the air and can be smelt without touching the plant, plants you need to get up close to and plants you will need to pinch or crush in your hand. I have listed plants for sensory garden on this page sensory garden plants
If children will be using or visiting the sensory garden, It makes sense to stick to safe fruits and vegetables, I have listed a few fruit and vegetables on my sensory garden plants page.
Mystery and surprise
Plan mystery into your design the "Ups and downs". The design and build of pathways is important in a sensory garden, a little bit of mystery, corners with high bushes or wooden structures blocking the view, width, changes in direction, branching, slopes, changes in textures, materials and colours are all important. plant fragrant plants along paths and entrances where they can be fully appreciated. Logs, trees, platforms, bridges, stages to stand on or climb up. Hanging baskets and mobiles set at different heights all add interest to a sensory garden. If the sensory garden is being designed and built for use by a person using a wheelchair or a blind person some of these features will be obstacles to their enjoyment of the garden.
And something different in your sensory garden plan You might want to try growing plants in a hay or straw bale, for smell, touch, taste and definitely surprise, have a look at the hay bale garden page
Tips to incorporate into a Sensory garden design
Colour Flowers for the four seasons, leaves, bark, berries, lichens and mosses all add to the colour experience in your sensory garden.
Shape Leaves, sycamore, beech, ash, fruits and vegetables, apples, currants, rose hips and ornamental cabbage, flowers, daisy, poppy, and bell flowers. Stems,bamboo canes etc. Planting containers, round, square, rectangular.
Movement For interest combine movement with sound. Aspen, willow, white poplar and grasses. plant some within reach so that people can activate them. Place wind chimes in breezy spot.
Contrast Contrasting textures and surfaces like smooth paving onto cobbles,flowers,foliage. (Cotton to holly etc).
Texture, Feeling, touching rough surfaces lichens, bark,smooth flower petals,ridged textured concrete, backs of leaves,hairy leaves such as Stachys, buds, grass,bumpy twigs, soft mosses, fungi,slimy algae etc.
Smelling/scent there are many other materials other than flowers that have distinctive and interesting smells, wet stone, compost heap etc. Choose flowers and plants that give off scents in different ways, scents that fill the air, plants you have to get up close to, plants you will have to pinch or crush in your hand, chamomile gives off a lovely apple fragrance when crushed under foot. Chamomile lawn tips
Tasting Stick to fruit and vegetables you know are safe if children are using the sensory garden unsupervised.
Path design, The design of pathways is important in a sensory garden, a little bit of mystery, corners with high bushes or wooden structures blocking the view. Width, changes in direction, branching, slopes, changes in textures, materials and colours are all important. A list of plants for sensory garden designs on mySensory garden plants page.
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