My sensory garden is a collection of plants, hard landscaping and garden materials and features I have selected and laid out in such a way to appeal to my own and my families senses.
For me because I'm old and miserable I like to be able to sit and relax in a peaceful shaded place and listen to the birds and breeze in the trees, run my
fingers over and feel the texture of the flagstones beneath my seat, doing nothing much at all.
My wife on the other hand, who is a busy busy bee likes to relax by reading a book or fashion magazine in a sunny scented spot in our sensory garden and every few minutes is up and about picking raspberries or digging out weeds with a garden trowel - I planted bamboo to shield myself from her.
However, our children (well grand children now) are not over interested in the serenity bit so I used pebble paths and some fun stuff like a chess board made from small coloured slabs to encourage them to play, explore, touch or taste, and interact with particular plants, features or objects. They seem particularly drawn to insects living under stones, so I built rockeries.
The rockeries keep the kids busy looking under stones and my wife busy replacing the stones and replanting the plants.
So a sensory garden can mean different things to different people.
Some are designed to encourage activity and interaction and some to provide a place for peacefulness, to be alone with time to think, or preferably if you have the space designed and built with all of these things.
I think what really distinguishes a sensory garden from an ordinary garden environment is the inclusion of plants, materials features and objects with particular sensory qualities, used with the intention of stimulating our Senses, Seeing, Hearing, Smelling, Touching and Tasting. When you are designing your sensory garden you can also consider these sensations as well as the five senses. Gravity, temperature, space and enclosure to create a multi-sensory environment.
Begin by asking the people who will use the garden what they want from the garden.
Other design considerations.
Whatever you do, it will be the effect on our Senses Seeing, Hearing, Smelling, Touching and Tasting not forgetting gravity, temperature and enclosure that distinguishes a sensory garden from an ordinary garden
We actually experience more sensations than the five senses. Gravity, temperature, space and enclosure are some of them.
Below I have listed some ideas that highlight the many different sensory experiences you can plan in when designing, planning, building and creating a Sensory garden at home.
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 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.
Contrast: 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.
Shape. Most natural and artificial 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.
Patterns. 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 also some that can be activated like; water features and striking chimes, etc. into your sensory garden.
Natural sounds are the sounds of leaves rustling in the wind, birds singing, water trickling and splashing and raindrops pitter-pattering on windows and roofs.
Bring back childhood memories--Remember the sensation of feeling safe and dry when taking cover in a rainstorm?
Feeling-and-touching. Think of the different textures you feel at home or in town and in the country, eg. Soft sand, cotton, rough surfaces, lichens, stonewall, 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.
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 hay, stone, leaves and compost heaps, the smell of a well-maintained compost heap can be nice and
When you are choosing plants for your sensory garden designs, select plants for their 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.
Tasting. If children will be using or visiting the sensory garden, it makes sense to only include safe fruits and vegetables, I have listed a few fruits 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.
It's easier than you think to create a sensory garden at home and with a few changes a sensory garden can also be a good place for people with Alzheimer's and other dementia too.
If the sensory garden is being designed and built for use by a person using a wheelchair or a person with impaired vision some of these features will be obstacles to their enjoyment of the garden. Tips, designs and build information for people using wheelchairs gardening with a disability
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