Sensory Garden Design and Inspiration

Creating an outdoor space that stimulates your senses can help increase your well-being and reduce stress. Sensory gardens are specifically designed to engage your sight, hearing, smell and touch, and are created for different purposes. They are often used as a therapeutic space to relax and are particularly beneficial for disabled children or those suffering with mental health problems. 

 All gardens create sensory experiences, but those specifically designed for this purpose help to create experiences that evoke positive emotions and reactions. It doesn’t matter what size garden you have available, changes can be made to any space, whether large or small, to increase the sensory experiences and benefits of your garden.

Tips for Designing Your Own Sensory Garden

The main factor that needs to be considered when creating your own sensory garden is how the different senses are going to be incorporated together. If you have a larger space, creating zones for each sense can help to focus one element at a time, or multi-sensory zones stimulating two or more senses at once can make the experience more enjoyable and exciting.

 If you are designing a sensory garden for a person with disabilities, we recommend considering their individual needs when thinking about layout, considering the accessibility if they are a wheelchair user and whether more than one sense stimulated at a time could become overwhelming for them. If the garden is being created for a wheelchair user, use smaller plants that bloom within reach from the main access points, and if it is being used as a teaching tool for younger children plant edible fruits and vegetables to encourage both taste and touch.

 Ideally, the garden should contain a well-positioned seating arrangement which will help you to enjoy the tranquillity of the garden and is the perfect invitation to sit back and relax together. One of the main benefits of creating your own sensory garden is that they can be adapted to a wide range of users by simply changing the position of the paths and incorporating water features, animal feeders and plants that produce distinct fragrance.

Plants to Add to a Sensory Garden:

Sight:

Planting diverse and vibrant plants that vary in shape, size and texture will create a stunning visual impact. Whether they are planted within borders, pots or in beds, bright coloured flowers create depth and definition against greenery. Using plants that grow as bushes, trail or grow as a single stem will also help a different dimension and enable the users to touch and immerse themselves in the experience. Some of our favourite plants to add include Tulips, Poppies, Marigolds and Roses. 

 Brightly coloured flowers also tend to be popular with butterflies and pollinators. Encouraging wildlife to your sensory garden not only produces new sounds but an interesting movement to watch and observe.

Sound:

As the wind blows in the garden, Bamboo and grasses create a distinct and relaxing rattling noise. Choosing these plants will help to create a relaxing environment with natural sounds helping to ground thoughts.

 However, it’s not just plants that can help bring peaceful sounds to your space. Garden accessories such as wind chimes and water features add musical serenades to the rustling plants and can also add reflections and movement to stimulate our other senses. Also, encouraging birds and wildlife to your garden will help to increase the lively feel of the area and add exciting sounds through bird song and wings beating.

You can also add gravel and different sized shingles to paths and walkways for crunchy sounds and different textures. Occasional larger feature stones can also serve as habitats for bugs and create smooth, cool textures to explore.

Smell:

Lavender, Mint, Geraniums, Honeysuckle and some varieties of Roses create distinct and recognisable smells. Sweet, refreshing and relaxing smells can encourage your body to relax as well exploring the positive associations that these plants can create. Lavender is a particular favourite for sensory gardens due to its calming yet strong smell, at Holt Garden Centre our Lavender plants can be found in store from early Spring.

Herbs are also a great addition to smaller gardens or a designated sensory area as not only are they fragrant, they can also stimulate your sense of taste. Parsley, Basil and Chives thrive well both in the garden and in smaller herb pots making them perfect for both small and large areas. Take a look at our handy guide on how to grow your own herbs.

 Taste:

 The best way to encourage taste in the garden is to use edible plants that can be consumed safely. Designating a small area to fruits and vegetables can help encourage touching the soil when planting and digging up potatoes and root vegetables and trying new flavours. Strawberries, carrots, runner beans and herbs all grow differently which is a good way of introducing new textures and flavours.

Touch:

 An extremely popular plant to encourage touch is Lamb’s Ear, the grey-looking leaves are soft to the touch and almost feel velvety. Plants can have different textures depending on the adaptations they have for their natural environment. Soft to the touch plants tend to be the best for smaller children with species such as Silver and Jerusalem Sage having a soft down-like feel. Moss also has an interesting spongy texture which is great to explore. It is also common to find spiky grasses and smooth succulents in sensory gardens, however, you may need to stay clear of prickly Cacti and thorn-producing Rose varieties depending on who your area is going to be used by.

Many of these species can be grown from seed or planted from mature plants. Once your garden is flourishing you will be able to enjoy the space you have created, connecting to nature and exploring your senses. If you would like any help and advice on designing your sensory garden, or finding the perfect water feature, our friendly team is on hand to help, offering the best tips and tricks to make your garden thrive, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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