Built to maximise the visitor experience, a sensory garden is a great addition to any space. Known to have great health benefits, these gardens are ideal for those with mental health issues, autism or disabilities. So, if you want to create a feast for the senses in your own outdoor area, read on for our tips.
Location and space
Sensory spaces can be any size, ranging from a window box to a large open area. But you still have to pick the right location.
If your visitors include those with limited mobility, does your garden host any issues for them? If so, make sure you have ramps or suitable flooring to limit hazards.
To make your garden even more accessible, invest in raised beds or wooden planters. These are preferable for those in wheelchairs, as it brings the plants up to their level.
Sensory gardens use the five senses: sight, smell, sound, touch and taste. Maximise these to make yourself a perfect sensory experience.
When creating your outdoor space, be sure to add brightly-coloured flowers. This is important for children and adults with visual impairments, as well as making your garden backdrop beautiful.
Plant hydrangeas, as they produce large colourful blooms which are great to touch. Also consider sunflowers. These flowers make for tall floral displays that look striking when used to edge pathways.
You can even grow veggies! Ornamental veg like Swiss Chard is easy to look after and has lots of multi-coloured stems and leaves.
When planning, mark out sections for your aromatic plants.
Sweet-scented flowers like lavender and honeysuckle are great choices and have very distinctive aromas. And the popular chocolate cosmos, which smells like a chocolate-vanilla mixture, is also a big hit with children.
But if you want to mix it up, consider contrasting smells. Lemon scented geraniums and the curry plant will add some spicier scents to the mix, and offer plenty of stimuli for curious visitors.
Why not create a seating area surrounded by scented plants, or better yet, add a wooden garden arbour seat where beautifully fragrant climbing flowers like jasmine or sweetpeas can be trained up the structure. Simply sit back and enjoy your secluded vantage point! Mike from ‘Flowerpotman’ has a detailed list of his favourite sensory garden plants - check out his post for more inspiration.
In your garden, choose sounds that can be either relaxing or stimulating to your visitors.
A water feature is great for birds and wildlife, and lets the soothing sounds of running water create a natural soundtrack.
Additions like wind chimes or sound fences can add ambiance too. Make a sound fence by recycling household goods like tubing, pipes or plastic bottles and attaching it to wooden fencing.
Be sure to plant flowers and vegetables that are safe for consumption.
Herbs and peas are your safest bet. But for a twist, consider more unusual varieties to spice up your edible section. Siberian Chives and Orange Thyme are two delicious examples, and will be sure to please your visitors.
Edible flowers, like Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) and Pot marigold (Calendula officinalis) are beautiful to look at, but are also tasty to eat!
Add a touch-friendly section, as this will heighten the experience and will be popular with both children and adults.
Soft leaves like Lamb’s Ear ‘Stachys byzantina’ are popular in gardens, along with ornamental grasses like the Mexican Feather variety. Consider mixing up the sensations to get a wider reaction from whomever visits.
However, be cautious with your spikier plants! If you include cacti or plants with thorns some visitors would need to be supervised.
Designing a sensory garden at home is also about creating something fun for you. We’d love to see what your sensory garden looks like – share photos with us on Instagram!
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