Creating A Sensory Garden – Ideas And Plants For Sensory Gardens

sensory garden
Image by manams

By Susan Patterson, Master Gardener

All gardens appeal to the senses in one way or another, as every plant bears individual characteristics that entice different senses in unique ways. There is nothing more pleasant than to stroll through a garden and admire the rainbow of colors and diversity in texture while taking in the sweet fragrance of flowers in bloom.

What are Sensory Gardens?

Sensory gardens strive to maximize the sensory impact that the garden has on its visitors. Sensory gardens can be themed, divided into sections or presented as a whole. Sensory gardens are user friendly and encourage garden guests to touch, taste, admire and listen.

Creating a sensory garden is an exciting and worthwhile project that provides limitless opportunities to teach and exercise horticultural healing therapy techniques.

How to Create a Sensory Garden


Sensory garden design ideas are plentiful and can be suited to any garden objective. If you are planning a garden as a teaching tool for small children, for instance, you will want to keep your space small and plant heights within reach. If you are creating a sensory garden space for persons in wheelchairs, you will want the plant height and hardscape elements to be practical for this audience.

The beauty of sensory gardens is that they can be adapted to a wide variety of users. Start with a well thought out plan and be sure to accommodate space for the mature size of the plants you have chosen. Incorporate hardscape elements such as benches, paths, water fountains, bird feeders and garden art into the sensory space for an added effect.

Plants for Sensory Gardens

First and foremost when choosing plants for sensory gardens, it is imperative that you choose plants that will thrive in your garden region. Native plants are great because they are used to the environment, are less susceptible to disease and are generally lower maintenance that other non-native plants.

Next, include plants and other things that entice the senses.

Sound – To stimulate hearing, choose plant flora that makes noise when the wind passes through them, such as bamboo stems. Many seedpods make interesting sounds as well, and the end of season leaves provide a fun crunching sound under feet. You can also include plants that encourage wildlife in the garden. The buzzing of a bee, the chirping of a cricket or the whizzing of a hummingbird all stimulates the sense of hearing.

Touch – There is no shortage of plants that offer interesting textures, perfect for encouraging the sense of touch. From the baby soft feel of a lamb’s ear to the irresistible sensation of cool moss through the fingers or rough seedpods, it is possible to incorporate many different textures into the garden. Do not plant anything that may be dangerous, however, such as prickly roses or spiny agaves.

Smell – The sense of smell is extremely memorable, and aromas easily find their place in our memory banks. Most sensory gardens are full of mingling aromas that entice a wide range of emotions. Highly aromatic plants such as the sweet smelling gardenia, honeysuckle, herbs and spices, provide ample opportunity for stimulation.

Sight – Adding visual interest to a sensory garden can be achieved by using plants with varying habits such as those that creep, climb, trail, bush or stand upright. Incorporating plants with different bloom, leaf, bark and stem colors provide visual appeal as well.

TasteEdible fruits, herbs and spices planted in a sensory garden allow visitors an opportunity to experience nature’s bounty while enticing their taste buds. Vegetables can also arouse the taste buds.

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