Sensory gardens — built to evoke and indulge the five senses — are a great addition to any space. Fantastic places to learn and let minds wander, they are especially brilliant for young children.
All gardens appeal to the senses in one way or another, but there are certain ways you can truly activate sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste using plants and décor.
‘Particularly for children, a sensory garden can trigger brand new neurological experiences, which can have an incredibly positive impact on their development,’ the experts at All Round Fun explain. ‘Exposure to the numerous sights, smells, sounds and textures can improve their cognitive function, whilst also creating a safe, relaxing environment.’
Before you rush to build your sensory garden, first you’ll want to decide where to place it. If you are designing with children in mind, place it in a corner where you don’t mind mess and choose smaller plants so that they are in reach. If it’s for adults, consider a relaxing spot to unwind (we recommend garden hammocks).
Keep reading for everything you need to know about creating your own sensory garden at home…
A sensory garden can be anything from a window box to your entire outdoor space. You’ll want to ensure it’s a visually stimulating area, so pick plants that exhibit a vast range of shapes, sizes and colours. Some plants that are a feast for the eyes include tulips, alliums and pelargoniums, or even native wildflowers like marigolds or poppies.
If you don’t have a large lawn space, create a vibrant mini garden using trellises, raised planters or colourful pots on a patio.
JACKY PARKERGetty Images
Colour plays a key role in the garden, but we often forget about the importance of texture when creating an inviting outdoor space. Vital for any sensory garden, some of the ways you can incorporate texture is by adding materials such as stone, sand, water and pebbles.
When it comes to plants and shrubs, lamb’s ear, cool moss and grasses have very soft surfaces, while tree bark is rough to the touch.
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‘Different smells are often associated with memories, which makes it important to plant scented flowers in your sensory garden,’ All Round Fun suggest. ‘Aromatic plants like honeysuckle and roses — as well as herbs like lavender, sage and mint — are fantastic additions to the garden.’
Nothing promotes wellness better than fragrant flowers. If you’re hoping to create a space for reflection or meditation, the experts recommend you try to include as many scented shrubs and flowers as possible.
‘You can also leave scented diffusers near the most-used parts of the garden or burn incense in a partially enclosed area. As you take deep breaths, inhale the scents of your garden to feel truly at one with nature,’ All Round Fun explain.
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From the gentle babble of water to the chatter of wildlife, sound is an important dimension of a garden. It might seem challenging to plant with the sense of sound in mind, but there are lots of ways you can achieve this.
Playgo Fairy Unicorn Water Activity Table
If you’re designing a sensory garden for children, pick up some outdoor equipment designed to encourage water play. ‘Known to help develop children’s gross motor skills, it’ll also help with coordination and fitness as children lift, reach, carry and pour — so it has some fantastic developmental benefits too,’ the experts explain.
Some of the plants to get your hands on include beautiful love-in-a-mist, brizia (also known as ‘quaking grass’) and pheasant’s tail grass. Small trickling water features and hanging bamboo chimes are other wonderful ways to bring your garden to life — and stimulate the senses.
John Ian Palo-Ay / EyeEmGetty Images
Taste is vital when it comes to creating your sensory garden. Edible fruits, herbs and spices will entice the taste buds, while your own veg patch will provide a bounty of fresh produce.
All Round Fun suggest: ‘Hardy herbs like lavender, sage and rosemary are particularly easy to grow in pots that can be brought inside in winter. Encourage visitors to your garden to choose aromatic herbs to add flavour to drinks or meals. If you’re worried about pests, grow them in hanging baskets — this will also add a dimension of height to your space.’
23 stylish garden accessories to spruce up your outdoor space
Outdoor Mirror – Best Garden Accessories
Plant Stand – Best Garden Accessories
Barrington Plant Stand
Display your collection of plants, flowers and herbs with the Barrington Plant Stand. This three-tiered unit has shelves of varying depths allowing you to arrange the larger pots on the bottom, and smaller at the top.
Fireplace – Best Garden Accessories
Outdoor Iron Fireplace with Grill,
Create an ambience, keep warm and even cook all on the same piece of furniture: an iron fireplace. Not only does it look super-chic, it’s as functional as it is aesthetically pleasing.
Hanging Chair – Best Garden Accessories
Abbingt Hanging Chair
If you can’t quite get on board with a hammock (literally) then a hanging chair is the next best (if not better) option. It’s the grown-ups version of a hammock and means you don’t need two trees to tie it to.
Garden Lanterns – Best Garden Accessories
These outdoor solar lanterns create mesmerising patterns across your patio or shrubbery at night. The soft lighting adds a calm glow to an outdoor space and, best of all, there’s no need for batteries or an electric point outside.
Insect House – Best Garden Accessories
CJ Wildlife Apex Insect House
National Trust nationaltrust.org.uk
Create a haven for insects with this beautiful wooden insect house. Hang no higher than two metres from the ground and watch as buzzing bees and insects alike use the holes to lay their eggs.
Bird Bath – Best Garden Accessories
Round Terracotta Bird Bath, Green
Give the birds somewhere safe to drink with this round glazed terracotta bird bath. Simply place in your garden, fill with water and watch as the garden birds come to visit. Make sure you keep it topped up.
Storage Boxes – Best Garden Accessories
Set of 2 Wooden Storage Boxes, £28
Neatly hide away any bits and bobs with this set of two wooden storage boxes. Use it to carry cuttings or fresh produce, or to keep your shed organised.
Garden Lanterns – Best Garden Accessories
Summer Lantern Candle Holder, Pink/Blue
John Lewis & Partners johnlewis.com
This colourful candle lantern is a great addition for summer garden parties.
Garden Lights – Best Garden Accessories
10 Geo Shape Solar String Lights
Smart Solar very.co.uk
Brighten up your outdoor space with these stylish solar string lights. Designed to illuminate automatically at dusk, they charge in direct sunlight. We also love that they are waterproof, too.
Outdoor Plant Pots – Best Garden Accessories
Three Oval Trough Planters
Watering Can – Best Garden Accessories
Metal watering can
Keep your outdoor plants hydrated with this stylish metal watering can. With a rounded handle at the top and narrow spout at the front, it’s also available in classic silver.
Festoon Lights – Best Garden Accessories
20 Warm White Carnival Plug In Festoon Lights
Brighten up a summer’s evening with these on-trend festoon lights. Either hang around a tree, along a fence or on a festoon pole. Ideal for creating an Insta-worthy look.
Outdoor Table – Best Garden Accessories
Ipanema Round 4 Seater Garden Table
Argos Home argos.co.uk
Spruce up your patio with Argos Home’s playful yellow garden table, perfect for popping drinks on when relaxing outdoors.
Garden Sculpture – Best Garden Accessories
Bluebell Handmade Recycled Metal Garden Sculpture
Made from recycled metals, such as car bodies and oil drums, this bluebell garden sculpture will look great nestled amongst grass and flower borders.
Fire Pit – Best Garden Accessories
Industrial Fire Pit In Two Sizes
Outdoor Games – Best Garden Accessories
Outdoor Wooden Tension Tower Game
Chad Valley argos.co.uk
Looking to have some phone-free fun with the family this summer? This beautiful wooden tower game is great for both indoor and outdoor use.
Outdoor Rug – Best Garden Accessories
Catalpa Indoor/Outdoor Palm Leaf Rug
Rugs don’t just have to be for inside the home: bring comfort underfoot with this beautiful green outdoor rug. It has been made from polypropylene — a highly durable material that is easy to care for.
Garden Ornament – Best Garden Accessories
Hand Blown Clear Glass Self Watering
This hand-blown glass snail offers an attractive way to keep plants watered. It slowly releases water into the soil around your plants as needed, which is great news if you don’t have time to water them yourself.
Solar Garden Lights – Best Garden Accessories
Grand patio Garden Solar Lights
Grand patio amazon.co.uk
A striking sculpture as well as a useful patio light, recharge the battery for more than eight hours with enough sunshine and it will keep aglow for six to eight hours at night.
Outdoor Drinks Trolley – Best Garden Accessories
Coated Metal Drinks Trolley
THE FOREST & CO notonthehighstreet.com
Serve up chilled beverages in style with this stylish drinks trolley. The wheels make it easy to move across decking, while the metal coating makes it waterproof.
Shed Sign – Best Garden Accessories
Personalised Hanging Metal Garden Shed Sign
DELIGHTFUL LIVING notonthehighstreet.com
This personalised hanging metal sign can be printed with bespoke wording, making it the ideal accessory for a garden, shed, allotment or veg patch. The sign comes with either a rope or suede hanger.
Floor Cushions – Best Garden Accessories
Habitat Floor Cushion – Grey
Transform your seating area with this cosy floor cushion. Made from 100 per cent cotton, it will give your garden an instant refresh. Perfect for both indoor and outdoor use.
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