Sensory garden design advice

1. Why make a sensory garden?

We experience everything through our senses and this creates the multi-sensory memories we carry with us. The more senses we engage, the richer the experience and the more we remember. With imaginative sensory design and sensitive attention to detail, a garden becomes a sensory feast.

A range of sensory experiences

All landscapes are sensory but some are more sensory than others. It's the concentration of different experiences that defines a sensory garden or trail. Some are passive places, designed to be calming, while others are designed to stimulate activity or to be used within therapeutic or educational programmes.

What type of space do you need?

Through imaginative design it is easy to create landscapes that offer a wide range of sensory experiences, either as sensory-filled destinations in their own right, or as extra highlights to a more general space.

The first thing is to decide what type of sensory space you need. There are three basic options -

A sensory garden: A self-contained area that concentrates a wide range of sensory experiences. If designed well it provides a valuable resource for a wide range of uses, from education to recreation.

A sensory trail: A range of experiences provided along a route, with more association with movement. It can provide orientation and interest between different spaces (e.g. from indoors to an outdoor space), picking up themes that help connect them. Or it can give interest in its own right.

Enriching the overall landscape: Sites that are relatively diverse and easily accessible may lend themselves to developing an overall theme of sensory interest rather than concentrating on specific areas.

It often works well to combine them. So, if you are planning a sensory garden, you could add sensory richness to the routes that people will use to get there. Or enrich sensory interest generally throughout your site. Or add sensory-rich activities that you can use in the garden or in the wider site.

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