Enjoy with all your senses.

Enjoy with all your senses: how to create a sensory garden

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A sensory garden is one that can be experienced through touch, taste, sound and smell as well as sight. From fragrant herbs to fruits and spices, here’s how to design a magical, multi-sensory garden.

Even if you’re a novice gardener, you’ll enjoy the challenge of creating a garden that appeals to all the senses. Plants don’t exist merely to be looked at, after all, and a garden can easily be enriched with some carefully chosen additions, such as a soft-leaved sage, or a plant that whispers in the wind.

Touch

Many plants have interesting textures, and depending on your aims for your sensory garden, you could incorporate a whole range of unusual leaves:

  • Silver sage – silvery leaves, soft and downy to the touch. Silver sage requires well-drained soil and lots of sunlight.
  • Moss – soft and easy to grow.
  • Lamb’s ears – soft and silky. The plants are hardy and grow quickly in strong sunlight.
  • Houseleek – a succulent with hard, rubbery leaves, used by some for medicinal purposes. Minimal maintenance.

Taste

To create a more functional sensory garden, why not include a vegetable patch? Growing fruit and vegetables is easier than you might think, and surprisingly low-maintenance. The following plants are all edible, or can be used as ingredients:

  • Basil – fragrant, can be used to make sauces or simply added to a dish of pasta.
  • Wild strawberry – a small, sweet fruit. The plant thrives in damp, slightly shady conditions.
  • Nasturtium – the colourful flowers are delicious in a salad, and the leaves are edible too.
  • Chives – a versatile, perennially popular herb that can be added to soups, salads, and pretty much anything else.
  • Rosemary – a resistant plant that smells and tastes wonderful. Use it as a flavouring for meat, fish or potatoes.
  • Chili peppers – these plants do best in hot, dry climates and need plenty of sun.
sense 2

Sound

This is a sense that often gets overlooked, but it’s easy to grow plants that make pleasant sounds, enhancing your sensory garden. Choose long grasses that make sound as the wind passes through, or plants that attract birds and bees. Wind-chimes also make a nice addition to the garden, but for more natural sounds, start with these plants:

  • Bamboo – an attractive plant that seems to whisper in the wind.
  • Greater quaking grass – a long, rustling grass with pretty flowers that nod in the breeze. It’s easy to grow, and does well in full sun or partial shade.
  • Miscanthus oligostachyus – a decorative grass that rustles in the wind. It copes well with cold, shady conditions.
  • Love-in-a-mist – a beautiful flower that gives the appearance of being surrounded by mist. The seed-heads make a rattling noise when shaken.

Smell

Smells can be incredibly stimulating, evoking memories and emotions. To create a fragrant garden with a variety of aromas, plant these flowers and herbs:

  • Lavender – the smell of summer. Lavender is surprisingly tough, and thrives in the right conditions. Ensure your plant is in well-drained soil and has lots of sunlight.
  • Sweet pea – a beautiful climber with a sweet smell. Make sure you cut the flowers regularly to encourage growth.
  • Chocolate cosmos – a gorgeous, maroon flower with velvety petals and a chocolatey scent. Grow in moist soil and strong sunlight for the best results.
  • Honeysuckle – easy to grow and virtually indestructible, these vines bloom through the spring and summer. They have a lovely smell and attract butterflies and hummingbirds.
  • Jasmine – a heady, exotic fragrance. Jasmine plants require a bit of extra care and need warm climates, but they’re well worth the effort.

Sight

Aesthetics are very much a matter of personal taste, and a list of “beautiful flowers” would be never-ending. However, if you want a sensory garden that really stands out for its striking plants and flowers, give these a try:

  • Sunflowers – a cheerful plant that grows to remarkable heights. Sunflowers are tough and easy to grow as long as they’re kept in well-drained soil and strong sunlight.
  • Swiss chard – a plant with colourful stems and foliage that can also be used in cooking.
  • Chameleon plant – the foliage is brightly coloured and lemon-scented. Growing chameleon plants is simple, but take care that it doesn’t overgrow its boundaries and take over your garden.
  • Heuchera – a perennial plant prized for its delicate, vibrantly-coloured foliage.
sense 3

Sensory gardens for children

To make your garden child-friendly, consider adding some extra features like a small rockery or water feature. Create a “scratch and sniff” garden including plants with interesting textures (such as lamb’s ears, moss and ferns) and strongly scented plants (lavender, sweet pea and chocolate cosmos). This is a fantastic way to engage young children, and encourage an interest in plants and gardening.

So, use our tips as a starting point and then get creative – when creating a sensory garden, your imagination’s the limit…