Most gardens appeal to the senses in some ways, but what makes a sensory garden different is that it purposefully includes features, surfaces, and plants that stimulate our senses through touch, sight, scent, taste, and hearing. This particular garden aesthetic has proved beneficial to those with life-limiting or life-changing illnesses and conditions. In addition to being popular with children and adults, sensory gardens are also beneficial to those with sensory processing issues, such as autism.
This style of gardening is perfect for soothing the mind by encouraging you to focus on the present moment, whether you have a large space or a small balcony, these ideas will help you to explore and get started on creating your own garden sensory experience. Begin by considering each of the senses and choose elements that amplify them.
Create visual interest by choosing plants in a spectrum of colours. Bright colours such as red and yellow, are cheery and stimulating to the eyes. Add elements of interest such as texture and shape, create height and depth with trees, ground covering plants, shrubs, and climbers. Add plants that POP like marigolds, zinnias, cornflowers, and sunflowers, all of which attract bees, butterflies, and birds to bring the garden life.
In addition to plants, stone, brick, gravel, bark or slate can be used to create pathways and establish a journey throughout the garden, you could also take it a step further by arranging them in patterns, mosaics or murals. Garden ornaments or statues are a low-maintenance way to add beauty to your outdoor space that will also enhance visual stimulation.
To make full use of the plants around you, plant them within easy reach of benches and pathways. Integrate a mixture of plants with a variety of textures and densities, ferns for example offer a delicate and feathery feel with unfurling rolled heads, and marigold (calendula officinalis) are resinous and a little sticky to touch. You might also think about adding soft cushions, rough surfaced stone walls, rockeries, smooth pebbles, polished wood, twigs, or sand.
Another important aspect to consider is to identify the path of the sun when it comes into contact with the area in which you’d like to sit, if this area is warm and comfortable, you’re more likely to spend more time in the garden reaping the health and well-being benefits.
To utilise the natural sounds in the garden, think about adding plants that make noise when the wind passes through them such as bamboo, grasses, or the rustling of leaves on trees. Create a covered space to sit where you can listen to the birds singing, the gentle jingle of windchimes or the pitter patter of rain overhead. Stimulate your hearing with the trickling sound of water by incorporating a water feature or fountain, on top of creating relaxing sounds it may attract and benefit the wildlife as well for you to enjoy.
For a garden that tastes as good as it looks, include some edible plants that provide a mix of stunning colours and flavours to dishes and cocktails. There are so many edible plants that are both beautiful and easy to grow. Low maintenance options include fruit bushes such as blackberry, gooseberry or raspberry, fruit tress such as apple, plum or pear and rhubarb is fantastic for the shadiest corners of the garden and bountifully returns year after year.
Many types of herbs grow for large parts of the year, offering gentle scent as well as taste. Popular choices include basil, coriander, parsley, chives, and mint. Many herbs prefer to grow in a sunny position and make a wonderful addition to fresh salads or teas and some can even be dried and preserved for use during the colder months of the year such as sage, rosemary or thyme.
In addition to caring for plants, growing your own food is a simple way to connect with nature and has a wealth of positive benefits for both mental and physical health, not to mention its sustainable, pesticide free, cost effective, tastes so much better and is higher in nutritional content. For more information on how to prepare your soil for planting click here.
Complimentary scents really do boost a garden’s appeal, and this can be achieved by adding plants such as lavender, honeysuckle, jasmine, mint, or lilac to name a few. By growing fragrant plants, you can expect to also enjoy the added benefits of improved memory, focus and wellbeing, research has found these benefits to be particularly prevalent when engaging with plants and gardening activities.
The key to having fragrance in the garden all year round is to garden in accordance with the seasons. For example, in early spring you might plant snowdrops, crocuses and grape hyacinths, in the summer you might choose perennials like lavender, rosemary, salvia and thyme. For fragrance in the autumn try planting chrysanthemums and dianthus, and over the winter you can still enjoy fragrance from the likes of evergreens, holly and sweet box. By using a variety of fragrant plants, you can have a garden that is always full of scent and is an inviting space that people definitely won’t turn their noses up at.
Sensory Garden Progress
This garden has truly transformed into an oasis of calm, the uplifting scent from the aromatic herbs, lavender, sage, and thyme are now capturing the attention of passers by and of course the bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects. The Jasmine trailing up the garden bench is also providing a gorgeous and enticing scent that makes sitting in this garden all day long very tempting indeed.
The garden began with a range of green and yellow hues but has now blossomed into beautiful shades of purple. The grasses and bamboo have flourished and now sway very happily in the summer breeze. This garden is always full of new surprises, and we hope that you will enjoy it as much as we do.
We’re Here to Help
If you find it difficult to visualise what you want to achieve in your outdoor space, our recently installed show gardens will inspire and hopefully prove to you that gardening doesn’t have to be difficult or intimidating.
If you’re looking for advice on something we’ve not mentioned above, our friendly staff are always on hand to help.