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Sensory Gardens

Sensory Gardens - We are finding more and more schools, parks, hospitals, and therapy/care centres are talking to us regarding the creation of sensory gardens. This page is a resource for sensory gardens, what they are, who they are for, how to build one, and what plants are used in creating a sensory Garden.

Sensory Garden

What is a Sensory Garden – very much as the name suggests a sensory garden is a designated area that is landscaped and planted out with the sole purpose of stimulating the sensations of Touch, Smell, Sight, Taste, and Sound.

Who are Sensory Gardens for – really anyone who likes the concept, it can be considered as recreational, educational, and also therapeutic.

A sensory garden will have great appeal to children and people with special needs, encouaraging active participation in a fun and stimulating outdoor setting, encouraging exploration of the colours, textures, sounds and scents in the garden.


A successful Sensory Garden might have:

  • Plenty of seating, places to relax and enjoy
  • Running water, waterfalls/water features – always very relaxing.
  • Strategically placed wind chimes.
  • Diversity of shapes and textures through landscaping, Wood, brick, plastics, rubber, cobbles, gravels, metals.
  • Ease of Access around the Sensory garden, but also to the various plant and landscaping textures to allow touch.
  • Artwork, murals, bright colours, strong shapes.
  • Lighting, can transform Sensory gardens, especially if the setting can be enjoyed in the evenings.
  • Highly scented and visual plants are a great way to attract birds, bees and butterflies to the Sensory Garden.
  • Situate the Sensory garden in a bright sunny spot to maximise the selection of plants.
  • Do not create Sensory gardens near noisy busy roads.


Plants to tantalize the senses


  • Scent can be employed in a sensory garden by various means.
  • Fragrant flowers - Roses, Honeysuckle, Jasmine, Sweet Peas, Hardy Gardenia.
  • Enticing aromas of the Curry Plant, Wisteria, Chocolate cosmos, Mock Orange.
  • Rubbing and crushing foliage - many herbs such as Lavender, Rosemary, Mint, Lemon Balm.
  • It's important to groups the fragrant and aromatic plants accordingly.



  • Sound is derived by movement affected by wind. This can be both subtle and calming.
  • The rustling of leaves and stems the whispering sounds of wind passing through ornamental grasses or the busy rustling of bamboo stems can all be found in a succesful sensory garden.
  • Other natural sounds in the sensory garden will be the buzz and drone of bees and insects industriously going about their business in spring and summer.
  • Bamboo to use can be black bamboo and the big leaved Arrow Bamboo.
  • There are many grasses which would grace a sensory garden including fountain grass, feather grass, japanese blood grass, Zebra grass to name but a few.



  • Ok this can be a fun thing, but great care must be taken especially around the young, when it comes to eating plants.
  • Make sure the edible plants are clearly identified and ideally separated from othe non-edible plants.
  • There's a great number of edible fruits, vegetables and herbs to choose from. Some favourites are wild strawberry, Mint, Chives and rosemary.



  • The diversity of life, and its ability to protect itself from predatation, and climate creates means there are a multitude of textures to be found within plants.
  • Leaves can be glossy, hairy, furry, flat, serratted, spiky to name but a few. This incredible variation also applies to the very many types of bark that can be found.
  • The touchy feely plants we like to use include Cotton Lavender, Fatsia japonica, Mahonia x Charity, Banana plants, Colocasis, Ferns, Oranmental Grasses, Lamb's ears, Silver sage, and soft fleshy succulent plants



  • Plants with vibrant coloured flowers, contrasting foliage colours, and strong, bold architecture, make fantastic subjects in a sensory garden.
  • Great flowering, happy, fun plants - Poppies, Cornflowers, Marigolds and other wildflowers, sun-flowers.
  • For the selection of structural plants consider Palm trees, Cordylines, Phormiums and Jungle Plants, ferns, especially tree ferns.


Why Athelas Plants

Athelas Plants has worked with schools, care centres and residential gardens defining planting schemes for sensory gardens. We have the knowledge and experience to know which plants to use, where to plant, and when to plant. 

To learn more please give us a call on 01424 893593 or via email through the contact page.