A sensory garden is a self-contained area that concentrates a wide range of sensory experiences. Usually these gardens senses include sight, touch, taste, smell and even sound and all of these components are possible to capture in a well-planned, well-executed sensory garden.
All gardens appeal to the senses, since every plant has characteristics that stimulate different senses in different ways. Sensory Gardens strive to maximize the sensory impact that the garden and its plants have on its visitors and caretakers.
Sensory gardens can be themed, such as a fragrance garden or a touch garden. Or, they can be broken up into individual areas, with each area appealing to a different sense. Either of these approaches will result in an excellent result. Sensory gardens can also include potted plants and even non plant elements that support the same themes, such as scented candles (smell), small pools or pots of water (touch), decorative rocks or stones (sight) or the soothing sound of bamboo chimes, a trickling fountain or the chirps of wild birds (sound).
When planning a sensory garden be sure to keep the plants related to touch, taste or smell near to where the people are. This would usually be along walkways, seating areas or gathering spots. For instance, allow a rosemary or sage plant to overhang a walkway, so that a dress will brush against it when passing. Consider a mint plant in a pot at the end of a walkway, encouraging the visitor to pinch a leaf to freshen their mouth as they leave the garden.
Sensory gardens are the most interactive of all gardens, encouraging the visitor or the gardens to slow down and enjoy the experience. Have fun and be creative.
Aloysia tryphylla – Lemon Verbena (smell & taste)
Bay Leaf (Taste)
Chives (smell & taste)
Citrus Mandarin (taste)
Chives – Garlic (smell & taste)
Hops – Humulus aureus (taste)
Lamb’s Ears – Stachys (touch)
English Lavendar – Lavandula ‘Melissa Lilac’ (smell & taste)
Fig – Dwarf ‘Little Figgy’ (taste)
Oregano – Hopley’s (smell & taste)
Mint Bush – Prostanthera ‘Variegata’ (touch & smell)
Rosemary – Rosmarinus ‘Tuscan Blue’ (smell & taste)
Pepermint – Mentha (taste)
Santolina – Santolina ericoides (touch & smell)
Sage – Salvia ‘Allen Chickering’ – Cleveland Sage/native (smell)
Sage – Salvia ‘Figueroa’ – Purple Sage/native (smell)
Sage – Salvia ‘Golden’ (smell & taste)
Sage – Salvia ‘Tricolor’ (smell & taste)
Teucrium ‘Summer Sunshine’ – Creeping Germander
Marjoram ‘Variegated’ (taste)
Thyme – Creeping (taste)
Stevia – Sweet leaf (taste)
A sensory garden is an area that concentrates a wide range of sensory experiences. Usually these senses include sight, touch, taste, smell and even sound and all of these components can be capture in a well-planned, well-executed sensory garden.
1. Identify how much space you have to plant your Sensory Garden.
2. Decide which senses you specifically want to feature in your garden.
3. Do a little online research or ask one of our horticultural experts which plants are best at accentuating the specific sensory features you want to accentuate. Use the list of plants above as a starting point, but don’t limit yourself.
4. Using your plant list as the ‘ingredient list’, design your garden. As with any garden, pay attention to growth habits, sun requirements and water needs as you combine the plants in a final layout.
5. Be sure to locate fragrant foliage plants in the foreground, especially along paths where they will be brushed by passers-by. Fragrant, flowering plants are good choices for taller containers, which brings the fragrance a bit closer to nose height.
6. If you have young children or grandchildren be sure to involve them in the selection of plants and the planting of the garden. Getting them involved early on will engage them in the garden and keep their interest.
7. Consider adding butterflies, hummingbirds and other life in the garden. Plant a native milkweed, a yarrow and a salvia and watch the garden come to life. Your senses with thank you – as well as the insects and animals.
8. Sound can be added to the Sensory Garden by adding soothing widchimes, a trickling fountain or even just enjoying the natural sounds of nature.
Care & Maintenance Tips
Maintenance of a Sensory Garden is no different than most other gardens, but it will probably be more fun! Deadheading, pinching back, planting and grooming the garden will also stimulate your senses – and it will make the maintenance effort all the more pleasant.
If done carefully, activities like harvesting flowers for the home, pinching leafy stems for teas or pruning plants for sachets will naturally keep the plants well shaped and in bounds.
Avoid the use of pesticides in sensory gardens. Organic methods and biological controls are always best.