How to Create a Sensory Garden

How to Create a Sensory Garden
Photo: Hannamariah, Shutterstock
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Gardening and various forms of mindfulness have been getting more attention over the past year, thanks to (wait for it) the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, for many people, gardening itself is a form of mindfulness, giving them a chance to press pause on everything else, and focus on the here-and-now of what’s happening in their garden. If you want to take that concept to the next level, you may be interested in creating a sensory garden. Here’s what that is, and how to make one.

What is a sensory garden?

Essentially, a sensory garden is exactly what it sounds like: a garden designed to be experienced using all five senses (touch, smell, taste, sound and sight). There isn’t a single “formula” for a sensory garden — it’s all about adding certain features to a new or existing garden to fully engage anyone who visits, providing them with an immersive experience.

How to create a sensory garden

Here are a few suggestions for sensory garden features, courtesy of Holly Crossley at Gardening Etc:

Put a scented plant at the entry point

Whether it’s a doorway, the beginning of a trail, or part of your balcony, plant something with a scent you love. Crossly suggests lavender or nepeta (otherwise known as catmint). That way, there’s an immediate signal to your brain and body that you’re entering a different kind of space.

Install a water feature

This is not as intimidating (or expensive) as it sounds — just find a container that comes in a size to fit your garden. And if your garden is on a balcony, this could be a simple bowl of water. Here’s why Crossly thinks a water feature is worth it:

Water sends sparkling shimmers across the plot as it reflects the midday sun, it welcomes dragonflies, frogs, and other wildlife, it’s refreshingly cool to the touch, and the gentle splash of a visiting bird taking a dip is surely a soothing sound for anyone.

Plant herbs you can pick and taste

When the season is right, create a small “tasting section” of your garden, full of herbs like mint, chives, basil and spearmint. Then, when you visit this part of your garden, you can break off a leaf and chew it to experience the flavour (ideally after giving it some sort of rinse).

Add some stachys

Better known as “lamb’s ear,” this velvety soft plant is a great way to make your sensory garden more hands-on. “They have a beautiful silvery hue, and often sport spikes of purple or white flowers come summer,” Crossley writes. “Place them around a seating area or along a pathway for a soothing touch, literally.”

Create a space to sit and take it all in

Depending on the size of your garden, you’ll want to consider adding some type of bench or chair, if possible. This will give you and your guests a place to sit down, get quiet, and listen to the sounds around you (or the lack thereof).

It’s also a place where you can take a break from whatever else you’re doing, sit down, and take a good look at everything that’s going on in your garden. Crossley recommends placing the bench or chair in a shady spot and adding a cushion.

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