A sensory garden is an exciting and worthwhile project that provides limitless opportunities for creating a personal haven. Being surrounded by colours, scents and gentle noises relieves stress and brings peace and calm into otherwise busy lives.

For people with physical and mental challenges a sensory garden opens a whole new world of exploration and discovery, with pleasurable memories of past or present to sooth a troubled mind and stimulate creativity. Young inquiring minds find excitement and enchantment in the hidden wonders and the avid gardener can reap the benefits of the healing plants. Just like days of old when healing potions were conjured up over a caldron by a gnarled old medicine woman, we can now use those same herbs and wild plants to heal different ailments.

All gardens appeal to our senses in one way or another, as all plants bear individual characteristics that entice different unique sensations in us. There is nothing more pleasant than to stroll through a garden and admire the rainbow of colours and diversity in textures while taking in the sweet fragrance of flowers in bloom.

What are Sensory Gardens?

Sensory gardens strive to maximize the sensory impact that the garden has on its visitors.

A themed Sensory garden can be presented as a standalone or sub-divided area. They are user friendly and encourage visitors to touch, taste, admire and listen. Creating this type of garden is an exciting and worthwhile project that provides limitless opportunities, ideas a plenty and can be suited to any garden style.

If you are planning a garden as a teaching aid for small children, you need to keep your areas small and use plants with heights within reach. If you are creating a sensory garden space for persons with mobility aids such as wheelchairs and walkers, consider the plant heights and the hard landscape elements to be accessible and practical.

The beauty of a sensory garden is that it can be adapted to please a very large audience. Incorporate hard landscape elements such as benches, paths, water fountains, bird feeders and garden art into the sensory space for an added effect and style.

Plants for Sensory Gardens

When choosing plants for sensory gardens, it is important to choose plants that will thrive in your garden region.

Native flora are great because they are used to the environment, are less susceptible to disease and are generally lower maintenance that other non-native plants.

Include plants and other elements that entice the senses.

Sound – To stimulate hearing, choose plants that make a noise when the wind passes through them, such as grasses and bamboo stems. Many seed pods make interesting sounds and at the end of the season leaves provide a fun crunching sound underfoot. The buzzing of a bee and the chirping of a cricket all stimulate the sense of hearing.

Touch – There is no shortage of plants that offer interesting textures, perfect for encouraging the sense of touch. From the baby soft feel of a lamb’s ear to the irresistible sensation of cool moss through the fingers or rough seed pods. It is possible to incorporate many different and exciting textures into the garden with a little imagination however, care must be taken not to plant anything that may be dangerous, such as prickly roses or spiny agaves.

Smell – The sense of smell is extremely memorable, and aromas easily find their place in our memory banks. Most sensory gardens are full of mingling aromas that entice a wide range of emotions. Highly aromatic plants such as the sweet-smelling gardenia, honeysuckle, herbs and spices, provide ample opportunity for stimulation.

Sight – Adding visual interest to a sensory garden can be achieved by using plants with varying growing habits such as those that creep, climb, trail, bush or stand upright. Incorporating plants with different blooms, leaf, bark and stem colours provide colourful visual appeal as well.

Taste – Edible fruits, herbs and spices planted in a sensory garden allow visitors the opportunity to experience nature’s bounty while enticing their taste buds. Vegetables picked from the garden are satisfying and nutritious.