Sensory garden ideas – create an outdoor area full of sounds, smells and textures

Let us show you how you can plant yourself happily with sensual garden ideas that stimulate all the senses.

Sensory gardens are intimate outdoor areas full of seductive sounds, smells and textures that inspire. All gardens offer sensory experiences, but garden ideas that focus on the senses have a concentration of various elements that stimulate the five basic senses of seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling and tasting.

These gardens are sometimes stimulating, sometimes calming, and provide tangible, visceral experiences that can evoke emotions and help you relax.

While sensory gardens are suitable for everyone, they are especially beneficial for children and people with disabilities or mental health problems.

1. Choose the best plants for a sensory garden

The Physic Garden in Castle Park in Bristol was designed by Emma Coleman for St. Mungo’s and sponsored by Jo Malone London’s Charity Gardens Initiative. Many of the plants in the garden were inspired by ingredients from the perfumer’s fragrances, such as sage for Woody Sage & Sea Salt and basil for Basil & Neroli

Aromatherapist Nicolle Mitchell believes herbs can have real effects on the mind and body when they inhale their scents. Rosemary, for example, can relieve fatigue and help you focus; and lavender can help induce sleep and relieve depression.

2. Use fragrance to relieve stress

An old urn surrounded by green shrubs and bushes.

Kathi Keville, author of The aromatherapy garden, describes the scientific evidence for the relaxing, stress relieving scents of herbs like chamomile and marjoram; the stimulating aromas of basil, peppermint and sage; and among other things the surprising, passionate properties of liquorice-scented plants.

3. Consider the seasons of the year when planting for a sensory experience

A raised bed full of plants and flowers in the sun.

Plant supports host climbers like jasmine over a foam of perennials and herbs like cirsium, garlic-chives, irises, fennel, dianthus and mint

In addition to herbs, there are many other fragrant plants. Catherine Cutler, who is responsible for the perfume garden. created The Eden Project in Cornwall recommends thinking about the seasons and adding something for each season. “Some of the best fragrances come in winter,” she explains, “like Strauch-Daphne“ Jacqueline Postill ”. For the floral scent, try sweet peas, rose and jasmine, and pinks, which are remarkably robust and produce a wonderful, heady, clove-like scent, ”she continues.

4. Plant fragrant flowers

Mind garden ideas with fragrant flowers

“For larger gardens, my first choice is Cercidiphyllum japonicum (Katsura tree), which gives off an incredible scent of cotton candy in autumn,” says Catherine Cutler. “Other great plants for a perfume garden are mock orange, a shrub with very fragrant flowers, and fun, more unusual herbs like apple mint, pineapple sage, and curry.

The RHS recommends the chameleon plant, Houttuynia cordata ‘Chameleon’, a shrub whose leaves smell of lemon; and chocolate cosmos that has a vanilla scent that children love. ‘

5. Establish a sensory space in a small garden

Ideas for sensory gardens

It doesn’t take acres of land to create a garden that appeals to all the senses and promotes health and happiness. Garden decoration ideas such as a fragrant hanging basket, a collection of tactile plants in pots or a simple herb path can offer you invigorating experiences in both small and large gardens.

6. Be one with the wind

Sensory garden ideas with Stachys byzantine.

Stachys Byzantine (Lamb Ears)

To encourage people to explore your sensory garden with their hands, place trees within easy reach of paths and seating so the bark can be easily petted. Some plants simply ask to be touched, such as Stachys byzantine (lamb’s ears), whose leaves are soft as felt.

7. Make it visually appealing

A landscaped garden with a gravel path

For visual interest, use different textured path surfaces by introducing patterns with patios or paving and gravel. You can also consider gaze-controlled elements such as flags, sculptures or shaped cuts. When decorating a garden wall, encourage wildlife with bird feeders and choose nectar-rich plants for butterflies.

8. Improve with color

Fragrant red flowers in a mind garden

Colorful red flowers like those of Penstemon ‘Garnet’ are bright and stimulating

When it comes to colors, it is widely believed that “hot” colors like red and orange are stimulating, while greens and blues are calming. So try to divide different areas of your garden into zones.

9. Invite night-friendly contact points

Mind garden ideas with fireplace

If the garden is to be used in the evening, you can add fascinating ideas for outdoor lighting. Also, think of a fire pit and use plants like four o’clock and night-scented plants that come into their own at sunset.

10. Invest in a pond or water feature

Mind garden ideas with water feature

Trickling or gently flowing water is the soundtrack to a relaxing garden and a wonderful addition to a sensory garden. A water feature like a small fountain or a spout invites you to dip your hands or feet and let the children splash around and play.

11. Enhance the sound and texture

A statue of Buddha at the end of a long gravel path lined with hedges.

Include plenty of gravel walkways to encourage movement from one area to another and create a nice, crisp sound under your feet – you can even choose colored stones to add more stimulation.

What should a sensory garden contain?

Many sensory gardens are just walking paths or paths with weakly scented plants such as herbs between stepping stones. A winding route works well as it invites you to slow down and look around.

Another great sensory design is a keyhole garden with a narrow entrance opening into a larger room where you can rest while planting. Regardless of the design, you should plan for comfortable seating in a shaded part of the garden.

Choose landscaping materials that have a tactile element, such as smooth pebbles. A water feature stimulates both touch and sound.

For the sound, examine wind sculptures and sound fences – rows of tubes that produce a melody when a stick is pulled on them – or deer horrors, the pointed water features from Asia used in Zen gardening ideas.

Mind garden ideas with fragrant flowers

Purple tips of Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’, an ornamental sage with musk-scented leaves

Which plants are good for a sensory garden?

For a soothing natural soundscape, choose bamboo, trees like birch, and ornamental grasses like Briza maxima and miscanthus to enjoy the rustle of leaves in the wind.

Scent is one of the most vivid senses that can improve mood and trigger memories and strong emotions. To take advantage of these benefits, use fragrant plants, but plant them at intervals so that the various scents are not overwhelming. Add “pick and eat” options with strawberry pots or apple trees for flavor.

How do you make a small mind garden?

If you want to create a small or DIY sensory garden, it is best to plan in zones that focus on different senses. You can create a listening area by placing a seat next to a soothing water feature that is accompanied by the gentle hum of insects. Or plant a raised bed or container with herbs so that you can easily rub or sniff the aromatic leaves and flowers. To activate your sense of touch, think of textures underfoot, from cool grass to crispy gravel.

However, if you only have room for a few pots, then the best options are fragrant pelargoniums, the leaves of which release aromas of lemon or rose when rubbed. And make sure that there aren’t any poisonous, thorny, or irritating plants – the Royal Horticultural Society has a list on his website.