‘Green, green and more green’ is key says Robert Sergent-Fairly, an expert in building sensory gardens for schools.
Like the name suggests, a sensory garden is a garden environment that is designed with the purpose of stimulating the senses. Sensory gardens can be made to create different environments and be made with different purposes in mind, like creating a calming or a meditative space, a space for playing, or an area to attract wildlife and grow food.
This stimulation of the senses happens thanks to the plants, objects, features, and accessories used in the design of the garden. If you’re designing your own sensory garden at home, you’ll want to consider what objects and plants you want to use to stimulate touch, sight, scent, taste, and hearing, making sure to keep who it is you’re designing for at the centre of your plans.
Depending on how you design your sensory garden, it can be made with both adults and children in mind and depending on how much space you have, your sensory garden can be anything from a window box to a large outdoor area.
If you have an actual garden, you’re already one step closer to your sensory garden. Plants that exhibit a range of shapes, sizes, and colours create a visually stimulating area for adults and children and should make up most of your sensory garden.
For those of us who don’t have a garden and instead have to make do with a yard (or even a balcony), there is some good news – similar effects can be achieved with raised planters. Colourful plant pots can help create a vibrant mini-garden and trellis’ can help climbers and creepers cover concrete walls and be placed overhead to create green sheltered spaces.
Embellish the surfaces of your garden by using different materials like stone, sand, water and of course plants. Plants bring the biggest variety of textures with leaves that can range from completely smooth to bumpy and hairy. Other ways of enhancing the tactile variety in your sensory garden is by using other materials like pebbles, mosaics, water and sand.
Sand is especially loved by toddlers and makes for the perfect sensory activity. If you’re worried about the mess this may create, we sell a range of sand and picnic tables that help keep the sand in one place. There are also a range of sensory garden toys like this create and paint easel with a bamboo wind chime and a flower box.
There are as many plant scents as there are plant shapes, so try to include as many scented shrubs and flowers in your sensory garden as possible. You can also leave scented diffusers near the most used parts of the garden or burn incense in a partially enclosed area.
Small water features that create a trickling sound create a relaxing atmosphere that mimics the great outdoors.Hang delicate chimes from trees – bamboo chimes have a softer, subtler, more natural sound.
Another virtue of plants is that they attract birds and insects. Buzzing bees and birdsong is a wonderful way of working sounds into your sensory garden and keeping kids entertained.
As ever, you can rely on the trusty plant to help stimulate this sense by growing fruit and vegetables where you can. This doesn’t need to take the form of a full vegetable patch or a big apple tree, but could be small tomato or strawberry plants or any other edible herbs and climbers you can fit into your space.