Sensory Garden

We experience the world around us through all five of our senses: Sight, Sound, Touch, Taste and Scent. While we tend to think of our gardens primarily as something we experience with our eyes, all of our other senses are, in fact, involved. I became particularly aware of the importance of these other senses when a friend asked me to design a sensory garden for her visually impaired daughter. While the emphasis was on incorporating plants that produced delicious fragrance, we also included plants that had interesting texture and those that produce pleasant sounds.

Sensory Garden with Fragrant Flowers/Foliage

Annuals/Tropicals

  • Alyssum
  • Four-o-Clock
  • Gardenia
  • Heliotrope
  • Herbs of all types
  • Jasmine
  • Nicotiana
  • Pansy
  • Scented Geranium
  • Sweet Pea (heritage/heirloom varieties, as many newer forms have been bred for showier flowers and many have lost their fragrance in the process)

Perennials

  • Beebalm (Monarda)
  • Calamintha
  • Daffodil (some varieties)
  • Dianthus
  • Fairy Candles/Bugbane (Cimicifuga/ Actaea)
  • Herbs of all types
  • Hosta ‘Fragrant Bouquet’
  • Hyacinth
  • Lavender
  • Lily, Oriental
  • Peony (some varieties)
  • Prairie Dropseed Grass (Sporobolis)
  • Violet

Shrubs, Trees & Vines

  • Buttonbush (Cephalanthus)
  • Crabapple (Malus)
  • Honeysuckle (Lonicera)
  • Katsura Tree (Cercidiphyllum) – Foliage emits a honeysweet fragrance in fall
  • Korean Spice Viburnum (Viburnum carlesii)
  • Lilac (Syringa)
  • Linden/Basswood (Tilia)
  • Magnolia (Magnolia)
  • Mock Orange (Philadelphus)
  • Roses (Rosa)
  • Summersweet (Clethra)
  • Sweet Autumn Clematis
  • Wisteria

Plants with Tactile Interest

  • Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa) – corked bark
  • Coneflower (Echinacea) – bristly, hedgehog-like seedhead
  • Dill – lacy, airy foliage
  • Dusty Miller – soft/fuzzy foliage
  • Fennel – lacy, airy foliage
  • Hens & Chicks (Sempervivum) – unique growth habit that suggests a mother hen with her chicks gathered around
  • Lamb’s Ear (Stachys) – soft/fuzzy foliage
  • London Planetree (Platanus) – exfoliating bark
  • Love-in-a-Mist (Nigella) – interesting, unique seedpods
  • Magnolia – fuzzy flower buds
  • Panda Plant/Pussy Ears (Kalanchoe tomentosa) – fuzzy foliage
  • Rabbit’s Foot Fern (Davallia) – rabbit’s foot-like runners
  • Seven Son Flower/Autumn Lilac (Heptacodium) – exfoliating bark

Sensory Garden Plants that Produce Sound

Many plants will produce pleasant sounds when their seed heads or foliage rustle in the breeze. Consider leaving the seed heads on your plants for this benefit, among others.

A few of the best are listed below.

  • False Indigo (Baptisia)
  • Love-in-a-Mist (Nigella)
  • Ornamental Grasses
  • Quaking/Trembling Aspen (Populus)

In addition to including plants that produce sound we also included a small water feature to bring in the gentle sound of moving water, a carefully placed wind chime to add a musical element and bird feeders to attract songbirds to the garden.