Sensory garden ideas – create a beautiful garden that appeals to all the senses

All gardens are rich in sights, sounds, scents, textures and tastes, but a sensory garden amplifies each of these vital elements and envelops everyone who walks through the door in a cocoon of well-being and pleasure.

Planning sensory garden ideas takes some extra thought and care, but if you bring all five senses – sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste – to the fore, you can fill a space with very special garden ideas. .

“A lot of times people say to me, ‘Surely all gardens are sensory?'” says Lee Burkhill, garden designer and sensory garden expert, owner of garden ninja (opens in a new tab)‘I say, you’re right, all gardens have sensory aspects, but a ‘sensory garden’ exaggerates them and jumps all over the place.’

Sensory Garden Ideas

“The more we engage our senses, the richer the experience and the more we remember our experience in a garden,” he adds. Claire Francis, spokesperson for Sensory confidence. “With imaginative sensory design and sensitive attention to detail, a garden becomes a sensory feast.”

If you are considering planning a garden with sensory elements, let your imagination run wild to create a bespoke space that will stimulate and support you, your friends and your family.

1. Let the light in

garden terrace with garden mirror

(Image credit: Future PLC/Tim Young)

In a sensory garden, you’ll want to create areas of light and shade, but especially if you’re looking for north-facing garden ideas, you really want to maximize natural light where it’s needed.

Natural light lifts spirits and makes even the most compact outdoor space look airier. Fixing a garden mirror will effectively double the available light. Always take care never to place reflective surfaces in the hot sun (due to fire hazard) or where birds can fly into them and injure themselves.

2. Put fragrance first

Lawn strips with border in front of the garden furniture

(Image credit: Future PLC/Claire Lloyd Davies)

Flowers in sensory gardens should do double duty; color and shape, as well as fragrance, says Rob Grayson, purchasing manager at Hillier Garden Centers (opens in a new tab): ‘With careful plant selection, any garden can be a feast for all the senses. There is great pleasure to be had from a beautifully fragrant garden; whether it’s the fragrant whiff when you run your hands through lavender or the sweet scent of witch hazel that lights up the winter garden. There are a large number of fragrant plants to choose from throughout the year.

Rob recommends placing fragrant plants along a path, in pots by doorways, or as part of creating a fragrant border. You should also consider fragrant varieties when looking for easy climbing plant ideas that will wrap beautifully around your sensory garden.

3. Enjoy these natural sounds

garden with pond and green plants

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

Whether it’s the gentle tinkling of a water feature – a simple solar-powered model will do – rippling grasses in the gentle breeze, delicate wind chimes, cheerful birdsong or a pollinator buzzing busy going about its business, natural sound is crucial in a sensory garden. Include plants that make quiet rustling noises when the wind passes through them, such as bamboo stalks and seed pods.

And to add a lively dimension to those sensory sounds of the garden, encourage busy wildlife by planting attractive plants for critters to munch on and hanging bird feeders, insect houses and bee hotels.

4. Add a touch of comfort

garden area with garden furniture and cushions with plants and shrubs

(Image credit: Future PLC/Claire Lloyd Davies)

When you relax in your sensory garden, you’ll want to feel comforted and pampered. Use natural fibers or vintage textiles when thinking about dressing your finest garden furniture, which should also be as comfortable and organic as possible.

Focusing on natural or reclaimed pieces will help create an authentic, grounded space. Opt for soft, understated hues such as pale green, terracotta and delicate mustard over dramatic monotones or harsh contrasts.

5. Taste your local herbs

Garden with herbs in a wooden box with a garden pitchfork and pots around it

(Image credit: Future PLC/Tim Young)

Being able to reach out and pick a handful of fresh herbs from the garden – basil, rosemary, oregano and the curry plant (Helichrysum italicum) all have amazing aromas – is the easiest and more economical to feel a tangible connection with your garden.

You may also like to plant easy-to-grow vegetables and fruits in pots; tomatoes, mini zucchini, and berries like raspberries and strawberries are all good to grow.

6. Find a place to focus

Small garden with seats in the shape of copper pebbles

(Image credit: RHS/Sarah Cuttle)

garden designer by Kate Gould (opens in a new tab) This year, the ‘Out of the Shadows’ sanctuary garden at RHS Chelsea was dedicated to promoting peace, calm and well-being. As well as a lush mix of tropical and native plantings, it also included a series of garden terrace ideas offering plenty of inspiration on how we can all design discreet spaces in our own gardens for contemplation.

She chose to include pebble shaped seats with a brushed copper finish. However, if you’re short on space, why not make space for a natural bench or hanging chair in a peaceful corner away from the buzz of the rest of the garden.

7. Zone your space

Hosta bordering raised garden

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Giles)

A sensory garden can seem abundant with flowers, fragrances, light, shade (remember you will need garden shade ideas to protect you from the scorching sun and raindrops) and relaxing elements, but it also needs to be organized.

When considering garden design ideas for a sensory garden, think about zoning, says garden designer Lee Burkhill. “Zoning is useful because it helps you make sense of all the different senses you’re appealing to,” he explains.

“You could have an ‘excitement’ area in a sunny location, with flowers in warm, vibrant colors such as oranges and reds, for example.” Or a “touch zone” with evergreens or glossy or textured leaves.

8. Always work with nature

garden area with table and chairs

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Giles)

Whether you have an urban backyard or a country lot, chances are beyond your own border there will be something beyond to provide a natural context for your garden fence ideas.

So when planning your sensory garden, place crucial elements such as water features, seating and contemplation areas to take advantage of the attractive trees, shrubs and views in the background. A hammock hanging from a stand in the shade of a neighbor’s chestnut tree, or even a row of evergreens, can help you feel connected to nature.

9. Enjoy the Night Garden

garden with sitting area and brick wall

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

As the sun goes down and dusk begins to fall, the sensory garden can become even more nurturing. Bring in relaxing elements such as soft garden lighting, an awning, a sail or a pergola, and look at garden trellis ideas to add fragrant climbing plants such as jasmine and honeysuckle – the scent is always stronger The evening. For maximum enveloping clouds of fragrance, add generous pots of night broth and nicotiana (tobacco flower).

10. Stimulate all the senses

The small garden is a small swimming pool with wooden deck

(Image credit: RHS/Sarah Cuttle)

When planning your sensory garden, look for easy garden ideas that will help everything fit together. While it’s great to have specific elements dedicated to stimulating and enhancing each sense, also consider the overall palette of the garden. It should, ideally, be calm and soothing.

In Kate Gould’s RHS Chelsea garden, ‘Out of the Shadows’ for example, she worked on a palette of deep natural browns, for the terrace around the swim spa and silver gray for the gravel and hard paving of the garden. ‘landscaping.

With a bigger garden, you might want to consult a professional about it and find out how much a garden designer costs to bring your vision to life.

What should a sensory garden contain?

“The main purpose of a sensory garden is to evoke feelings,” says landscape designer Kate Gould. “Ideally, you want to create a feeling of safety and isolation, because those are the feelings that will make you want to linger.”

Most sensory gardens are designed to be as relaxing and healing as possible, with lots of scents, sweet sounds and soothing vibrations, but not all of them. Some sensory gardens are specially designed to stimulate children. These will have interesting playful aspects such as earthen kitchens and safe ‘mirror ponds’, which are very shallow pools of water sunk into the ground, or raised ponds on wooden legs, to reflect the sky and nature all around.

Other types of sensory gardens are created to support and stimulate the elderly and vulnerable; these sensory gardens can have generous pots of bright marigolds and striped petunias to appeal to those with limited vision, or raised vegetable beds with easy access for those with reduced mobility.

What do we hear in a sensory garden?

Silence, if that’s the quality you want above all else. However, most sensory gardens will feature a carefully chosen auditory element – and often, it’s water.

“Water creates both visual and auditory appeal and, when combined with rustling plants, can help create a pleasant atmosphere, especially in cities where it can help drown out the sounds of nearby neighbours, car horns car, etc.”, explains Kate Gould. “Plants and water attract wildlife, so the chirping of birds is another element that adds to a sensory factor in a garden.”

Why are sensory gardens beneficial?

Sensory gardens are beneficial because they connect us closely to nature by focusing on our senses – so they are carefully designed to fit the way we experience everything we see, hear, smell, touch and feel in the garden.

“It’s more important than ever in a post-Covid world,” says landscape designer Kate Gould. “We all enjoy our outdoor spaces and those that make us feel happy and safe mean our mental health is taken care of.”

And the way to unlock the key to good mental health is through our senses; Simply put, this is how a sensory garden works.