How to Create a Sensory Garden
Whether you’re creating a sensory garden at home or in a shared public space, it’s important to choose your plants and equipment carefully for optimum benefit. This practical guide provides some top tips and ideas to help you create the perfect sensory garden.
Planning a Sensory Garden
The first thing to remember is that it’s best to start off simple, especially if time and money are limited. A small, well-maintained sensory garden is far more beneficial than a large, overgrown one, and if you have any leftover space, you can always expand later on.
Before you get started, establish exactly who’s going to look after the garden: a contractor, members of staff, or a group of patients or students. Don’t forget to take weekends and holidays into account; you may need to get additional helpers in to water plants, weed flowerbeds and so on during these times.
When planning a sensory garden, make sure it is designed so that everyone can access it easily. For example, be sure to avoid tight corners and steep slopes if you have wheelchair users.
Sensory Garden Ideas
Sensory gardens can either be divided up by theme or presented as a single entity. Include items that stimulate all the senses, including touch, sound, sight, taste and smell, and depending on the user group, focus on one or two of these to target any particular sensory issues.
Plants and landscaping: Plant flowers in an array of different colours to maximise visual appeal, and include evergreen trees and climbers on trellises for added height and privacy. Raised planters are an ideal low-maintenance option for sensory garden plants, while hard landscaping features like tiered beds, winding paths and timber-frame shelters are great for adding interest.
Specialist sensory products: Giant convex/concave mirrors; painted play equipment and fencing
Plants and landscaping: Choose leafy plants in a range of interesting shapes, sizes and textures, e.g. long and thin (grasses), thick and fleshy (succulents), and soft and hairy (Lamb’s Ear). Include different ground surfaces, such as mosaics, pebbles and gravel, as well as different timbers (rough, smooth and grooved) to create a range of tactile experiences that can be explored at visitors’ leisure.
Specialist sensory products: Tactile play equipment
Plants: Choose a good selection of fragrant flowers and herbs, e.g. lavender, rosemary and honeysuckle, and arrange them in such a way that they grab your attention as you walk around the garden. (More fragranced plants here.)
Plants and accessories: The sounds of birdsong, buzzing insects the wind rustling in the trees may be adequate for many, but for those with auditory impairments, additional stimulation may be required. Choose plants that make interesting sounds as the wind passes through them, such as bamboo, rushes and plants with seed pods, and include wind chimes and/or water features for added effect.
Specialist sensory products: Musical instruments and interactive soundposts
Plants: If you have the time and space, create an edible garden containing a range of fruit and vegetables that are easy to grow and can be eaten raw, such as berries, tomatoes and sweet peas.