My sensory garden is a collection of plants, hard landscaping and garden materials and features. I selected and laid out in such a way to appeal and stimulate not only my own, but my families senses too.
For me because I'm old and miserable, I like to be able to sit and relax in a peaceful shaded place. To 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 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 that 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 and a Bug hotel.
The rockeries keep the kids busy looking under stones and my wife busy replacing the stones and replanting the plants. She stays away from the Bug hotel though!
So a sensory garden can mean different things to different people.
Some are designed to encourage activity and interaction. 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.
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 designing a sensory garden, in addition to the five senses we would normally associate with a Sensory garden. Also, consider these; Gravity, temperature, space and enclosure, to create a multi-sensory environment.
Begin by asking the people who will use the garden what they want.
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,
Smelling and Scent. Looking and seeing òó. Listening and hearing. Feeling-and-touching. . Tasting.
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.
Listening and hearing. Listening is calming as well as interesting. Try to design 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 old upturned tin baths, windows and roofs.
Bring back childhood memories. Remember the sensation of feeling safe and dry when taking cover in a rainstorm hearing raindrops on the windows.
Feeling-and-touching. Think of the different textures you feel at home or in town and in the country, e.g. 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 things 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 earthy.
When you are choosing plants for your sensory garden designs, select plants for their different types of scent.
Tasting. If children will be using or visiting your 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" and hidden entrances. The design and build of pathways is important in a sensory garden. Add a little bit of mystery, corners with high bushes or wooden structures blocking the view, width, changes in direction. 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 design.
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