Depending what you want to get out of your sensory garden, plant selection, materials and design will play a part and I have included a few tips on this and my other pages .
I hope these tips help you transform a bit of your own garden into a lovely sensory garden experience.
Plants which change colour through the seasons are interesting to watch as the leaves and berries grow and change colour.
Most flowers are very colourful during the summer, whilst many trees will blossom in spring before there leaves turn to shades of gold, brown and red in the autumn.
For winter colour check out my article, plants for winter colour
The changes in colour and appearance of materials like paved and pebble pathways when they get wet also add colour.
Shapes are also important in a sensory garden, materials like crazy paving and rough cut flags. The distinctive shape of oak and sycamore trees, flowers such as the daisy and poppy, the varied fruits of fruit trees.
Movement catches the eye too, so maybe add trees such as willow that wave in the wind.
A fountain or waterfall will add movement and attract birds rustling feathers as they bathe.
There will be plenty of sound to listen to, the natural sounds of wind in the trees, wildlife sounds. A shallow stream flowing over
pebbles or a waterfall, even wind chimes.
Scent and smell.
Plant a mix of plants and flowers which give off different scents. Ones you can smell without touching, honeysuckle and roses, some you will need to "get up close to" like daffodils and violets and some you will have to "get up very close to and gently crush them" mint and most herbs come to mind.
Also include plants in your sensory garden that might mean something to you personally, from way
back. Composting leaves and grass clippings give off a distinctive smell and the compost can come in handy too.
Texture is very important in your sensory garden both rough and smooth (mosses, lichens, holly
leaves, rivened stone and smooth pebbles, leaves, slate) and the stuff nature will provide like frog spawn and caterpillars.
Be careful with this one! Only include berries and fruits which you are sure are safe to eat. I was given this tip by a very rich widow I know!!! who still has her sensory garden.
Children might not always want to just chill out and feel the wind and touch the leaves!
So it's a good idea to include plants, materials and structures that will encourage play.
Think about Including a maze painted or raised on the side or top of walls for the kids to follow with fingertips and varying the textures of walls, paths and paving by using wood, brick, stone, flints, tiles, cobbles, setts, gravel, pebbles, bark, rubber, or metals adds interest.
Also you could include a raised bed or area for young gardeners to practice gardening skills.
Woven willow for fencing or cover over a seat, looks, sounds and feels good.
Sound comes from the plants blowing in the wind and features you design into your sensory garden. If you live near a noisy road some of the background noise can be partially blocked by screening with a barrier of noise absorbing trees or fencing, but never removed totally.
Remember background noise in itself is a stimulant to our senses and these days something we have to live with, so don't get over anxious about it. If you live under the approach to Heathrow airport or the proposed new runway, it might be easier to move house or reconcile it with the fact that your overseas holidays wouldn't happen without airports.
Moving water will make different sounds just by placing stones, pebbles or rocks in the flow and varying the speed of the pump.
Moving water is relaxing and always attracts children, but be aware of the dangers of even shallow water, some of us love the sensation of getting wet and dangling our hands or feet in a pond. Some kids and grown-ups who might otherwise rarely get wet in an outdoor situation, might not.
If you are planning to include a moving water
features, you will need electricity and water.
Air can generate soothing sounds as it blows through trees, bamboo, grass and fences. Don't forget wind chimes and the different sounds different materials make.
All of the human senses can be stimulated even in a small area of a garden or patio or even a pathway.
Pathways can be planted with scented shrubs and plants that will tolerate foot traffic, surfaced with cobbles, rivened flagstones or slabs and fenced with rustic 1/2 rails for truly great sensory experiences.
Containers can be used for decked or paved areas, I recently designed and built a Sensory area using only bulbs, flowers and shrubs planted in flowerpots and containers.
more information to help design and build a sensory garden
With a few design changes a sensory garden can be a good place for people with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia too.