Sensory Gardens: An inspiring journey that tantalises the senses
Sensory gardens are designed to provide a sensory experience for a community of people. They are specifically created to consider visitors with a variety of disabilities – whether they are mental or physical. The purpose of a sensory garden is to provide enjoyment, be accessible to all and at the same time, entertain a multitude of senses.
Photo credit: http://pixabay.com/en/bridge-japanese-garden-arch-53769/
For this reason, features and structures chosen for sensory gardens are very specifically selected and sight, sound, touch and smell should all be considered when designing a sensory garden. The features included should always represent those who will primarily be using the garden, it is therefore tremendously important to consider what is included when designing a sensory garden and speak to those who will use it. To give you a comprehensive look at what could be included in a sensory garden, below is a list of senses and corresponding features that could be incorporated.
Sight is an extremely important sense to consider, especially for visitors of the garden who are mentally impaired. Simple things such as a colourful display of flowers or an artistic sculpture can trigger huge amounts of positive emotions.
The most important element here is to really dig deep into the personalities of the individuals who will be using the sensory garden; what are their hobbies and dreams? If this can be represented in a structural form or an abstract piece of art it could have a hugely positive impact on those who view it, especially those with illnesses such as dementia.
Sound is another exceptionally important sense to consider, especially for visitors who are visually impaired as the other senses are often thought to be heightened. The most popular features in a sensory garden that utilise this sense are water features and wind chimes.
The sound of running water is calming and is thought to provide visitors with a sense of tranquillity. Water features are popular in sensory gardens that are hidden in bustling urban cities – they can take the garden users away from this sometimes hectic and unpleasant environment.
Touch and smell
These senses are equally important as they are thought to be primary senses for triggering memory, emotion and nostalgia. It is very easy to incorporate features in your sensory garden that entertain these senses, as there are an infinite amount of objects that can be used for their texture and a huge selection of features that encourage visitors to use their sense of smell.
For touch, features such as sculpted handrails, textured touch-pads and walls textured with Braille messages are particularly popular and are very successful in encouraging engagement and interaction from garden users.
For smell, flowers and plants are the ultimate choice. There are a variety of these that provide an irresistible scent whilst still being easy to maintain. Lavender and Honeysuckle are noted for their soothing and relaxing scents but, if you want something a little more exciting and exotic, you could plant Chocolate Cosmos (you’re right in thinking they smell like chocolate!) or Jasmine, both produce rich, sweet fragrances that can be enjoyed year-round.
All these combined together will provide a multi-sensual experience for visitors of the garden. One thing to consider when designing a sensory garden is that everyone should be included in the process. For example, if the garden is being designed for patients at a care home – family and friends, as well as employees should also be considered. A sensory garden’s primary role is to create a sensory journey and heighten awareness for all those who visit it.
If you were to design a sensory garden what additional features would you include? Let me know in the comment section below.