Sensory gardens are great for children to learn about plants and also to get them interested in the world of gardening. They are also very appealing on the eye and offer a wonderful experience for children as they explore plants and the effects that they have on the senses. Sensory gardens, by their nature, are also safe gardens for children as they are quite hands on.
What is a sensory garden?
Sensory gardens are created to have numerous effects on our senses. These are great for children as they will be able to experience a vast variety of sensory experiences through careful planting.
Of course, you can build a sensory garden to only play on one or two senses but if you have the space, you can create one that will provide an experience for all of the five senses.
Planning a sensory garden
If you are planning on creating a sensory garden there are a number of things to consider. It is certainly worth planning out your garden with some drawings as it will be quite easy to go off track from what you are trying to achieve. When planning your garden, you will need to think about the height of the plants and whether they should live in the beds. For example, plants with a touch sensory, you will want to have at the front.
Also, if you are planning on putting plants such as sunflowers into your garden, it is worth considering putting these at the back of the garden to create a stunning visual display. Careful consideration should also be taken about the size of plants and how big they are when they have matured. Many sensory gardens contain mint but when mint is not managed, it can have a tendency to take over – it may be better to plant mint in a pot.
More often than not, you will struggle to get the very best out of your sensory garden in year one. This is mainly due to the fact that the plants will need some time to establish to give their full effects. You will certainly want to take your environment into consideration as the plants in the garden will appreciate different growing conditions.
Depending on the space that you have will very much depend on what type of sensory garden you can create. If you have a large space, you will be able to make walkways and segment the different areas of the senses. However, if you have a small space, that shouldn’t put you off as you can still make an incredible experience. Using pots of different sizes will give character to the garden and also suit the different plants that you decide to plant.
If your garden is big enough, the best way to enjoy a sensory garden is to create spaces with walk throughs. By having these paths, it will enable children to experience the different sensory experiences that the garden has to offer. Try to experiment with different types of path. Ones that will allow children to walk in bare feet as well as in shoes. Paths can either be made of grass, brick, moss or soft bark.
Sensory Plants for Sound
Gardens are not all about visuals. Here are some great plants that you can listen to when there is a gentle breeze.
Baby will create a great backdrop and amazing visual feature of a sensory garden. Planted close together the foliage will make a lovely sounds as the wind goes through your sensory garden.
Due to sweetcorn growing tall (as much as 6 foot) the foliage will rustle in the wind. This will also be great for taste too when the corn is ready for picking at the end of the summer. Check out our guide on growing sweetcorn here.
A lovely grass that has a flower that appears as a lantern that will move around in the wind.
Sensory Plant for Sight
Having great visual in your sensory garden will attached children and nature. These plants will create amazing visual effects for your sensory garden.
There are a number of different varieties of sunflower than you can introduce into a sensory garden. As you know, some of them grow really high and others stay small and produce multiple flowers. These are great for creating stunning backdrops or features within beds or pots (for smaller varieties).
Love in a mist
A beautiful blue flower that grows above a lovely bushy foliage. This plant will have a great impact in any sensory garden. You can find out more about this plant and how to care for it over at the RHS.
Marigolds are great in a sensory garden as they are so vivid in colour. They can be planted from seed, which is also a great activity to do with children. Check out our post on how to grow marigolds here.
Sensory Plants for Touch
This type of sensory plant really is quite important for a sensory garden. They are particularly great placed at the front so that children can experience them.
Enjoys well drained soil in full sun. This plant will grow to around 1m and the leaves are extremely soft to the touch.
This plant thrives best in well drained soil and also in full sun. It has extremely soft and fluffy foliage and will produce flowers during the months of June and September.
If your garden is not in well drained soil and you want to create a sensory experience in a shaded area, moss is a great alternative. Whilst you may think of moss as something that needs cleaning, grown in the right way, it can create a stunning display. Here’s a great article on The Spruce that tells you how you can grow moss.
Sensory Plants for Taste
Under the care of an adult, children can really enjoy edible plants in the garden. Whilst it is important to stress that only these plants are edible, there are some fantastic tastes that can be experienced right in the garden itself.
Chives are a wonderful plant. Whilst they are normally grown in a vegetable or herb garden, but they also warrant their place amongst the other sensory plants. When they are not flowering, they are a lovely rich green plant that tastes great in a number of summer dishes. When in flower, they are just fantastic and the bees absolutely love them. Check out our guide on growing chives here.
Rosemary is a highly fragrant plant and has so many uses in the kitchen, both in the summer and in the winter. It is incredibly easy for children to pick and just one rub of the rosemary plant leave an unmistakeable scent on your hands.
There is not much of a more iconic plant to have in the taste section than the strawberry. Whilst these will require a large area of their own if planted in the ground, they do provide fruit that is amongst the children’s favourite. They are also great if you are creating a sensory garden in a smaller environment as they can be grown in purpose built containers. Plus, they are delicious!
Whilst curry is not particularly something that children would have tasted at a young age, the extreme difference of this plant against others is a great experience.
Sensory Plants for Smell
There are a number of smelly plants for a sensory garden and on a day with a gentle breeze, with create a beautiful fragrance in the area surrounding them.
Sweet peas give off the most amazing scent. Not only are they fascinating to watch grow, the flowers can also be harvested for beautiful displays in the house.
Mint is best grown in containers because it will spread like wildfire if left to grow in an open bed. Although with proper maintenance, mint is a lovely herb to grow. If you have enough of it, making your own mint sauce is just amazing and the kids will love picking it too! Here’s a great simple mint sauce recipe from the BBC.
Whilst honeysuckle will take a while to mature, the aroma of it is just incredible. The flowers will also create a lovely focal point and bring an abundance of bees.
Lemon balm is very similar to mint in its appearance, especially in the leaves. Picking a leaf and rubbing it between your fingers leaves just leaves the most amazing smell.
Most definitely one for the summer but basil is a stunning herb. The smell is so distinctive and it great for children to pick and bring to the kitchen – especially if you like Italian cooking.