Gardening for the Senses

If you have an area in your garden that you are unsure what to do with or if you have an area that is in bad need of re-development, it might be worth considering making a sensory garden. A sensory garden is a garden or an area within a garden, specifically designed to stimulate all the senses. While in a way all gardens can be used to stimulate the senses, a sensory garden is usually an area in which all the design elements, including the hard landscaping and the planting scheme are particularly geared towards stimulating the senses of sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing. Sensory gardens are usually designed to be relaxing as well as being stimulating. These gardens are becoming increasingly popular in schools, public parks and private gardens as a way of introducing children and young people to the joys of nature.
   When planning your sensory garden there are a number of factors that should be taken into account. The most common way of developing a sensory garden is to divide the plot up into particular areas or beds, with each area being devoted to a particular sense. These beds should be reasonably small so that all the plants can be easily accessed from the paths which lead from one area to another. A sensory garden should also include at least one seating point to allow people to stop and enjoy their surroundings. While sensory gardens tend to be quite formal a more informal look can be achieved by carefully blending the different plants and features throughout the whole area.

Sight
Plants come in every colour, shape and size imaginable. In your sensory garden you should aim for a range of plants that will provide you with a good mixture of vibrant colours through the whole year. Along with bright flowers the changing colours of foliage, bark, buds and berries can be used to add interest at different times of the year. The hard-landscape materials that you choose for the garden can also be used to add colour and interest to the garden. Materials such as stone, brick or slate also have the advantage of changing colour in the rain.

Sound
There are a number of ways that sound can be introduced into your sensory garden. These include planting shrubs and trees that will encourage native birds and insects to visit the garden. It is also possible to incorporate into the planting scheme plants such as ornamental grasses or bamboo that will rustle in the breeze. The sound of a water feature bubbling away in the corner can also be used to add a relaxing tone to the garden.

Touch
Touch is a sensation that people often over look when it comes to gardening. Plants vary greatly in terms of texture, with some having very smooth leaves while others have very rough or jagged leaves. By planting a range of plants with different textured leaves we can see the differences up close and personal and get a better idea of how particular plants deal with the elements and their surroundings.

Smell
The fragrance given off by some plants is possibly one of the most rewarding aspects of gardening. Along with filling the air with their scent, fragrant plants also attract nectar-loving birds and insects to the garden. When planning your sensory garden it is usually a good idea to grow fragrant plants in groups as this can really heighten the sense of smell.

Taste
There are loads of interesting, easy to grow plants that are suitable for eating or for cooking. These include plants such as fruit, vegetables and herbs that are not only tempting to birds and wild animals as well as humans. These tasty plants can also be a great way of getting children outdoors and interested in gardening and the world around them.
© Copyright, Highland Landscapes, Letterkenny, 2008.