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Creating a sensory garden

September 11, 2011

How to make a sensory garden

We have created a small area as a sensory garden for our son, Joe who has dravet syndrome. We have used wind chimes and windmills, a colourful flag from a carboot sale and some streamers hanging from the trees. We also added a small water feature, a pump in a wooden barrel creates a pleasant rippling noise for Joe.

Our son joe laying on a trabasack play tray

Our son Joe enjoying the sensory garden

To find out about suitable plants for a sensory garden, I asked Garden designer and restoration specialist Charlie Bloom for some ideas on the most approriate plants to choose:

Sensory plants for any garden

A garden by definition is a place to excite and satisfy the senses each can be stimulated by using plants that not only look beautiful, but also feel and smell as such. With that in mind, I have made a list of some of my favourites that are fully hardy and will enhance any sensory garden planting scheme.

Touch and feel

There are a number of plants that have soft, velvety foliage. Stachys byzantia and Salvia argentia have woolly sliver leaves, known affectionately as “lambs ears”, these plants are purely tactile, but both adorn themselves with tall flower spikes during the summer.


Phlomis fruticosa is a bit more conservative in its wooliness, but none the less is soft to the touch and has garish yellow flowers during the summer.

sensory plants for a sensory garden. Atribution

Phlomis Fructicosa

Sensory grass plant attribution of image, gratitude to

Miscanthus sinensis: "is a graceful swaying grass"

In contrast, Miscanthus sinensis, is a graceful swaying grass, that bursts with silky flowers that rustle gently in the breeze.






Plants have been used for thousands of years for their medicinal qualities, many as aromatics and thus add another dimension to the garden, as plants that can awake our sense of smell, an essential  in a sensory garden.

Monarda didyma, also known as Bergamot, has a heady aromatic scent, with the benefit of many heads of scarlet pompom flowers in the summer.

Lavender a sensory plant known fro its aromatic smell

Lavender, a sensory plant that is hardy and very common in gardens.

Lavender has been long associated with relaxation and rest and the oil is harvested to add to a myriad of products. Helychrysum or Curry Plant has a distinct aroma of curry spice and has a burst of yellow flowers. With all aromatics and herbs, by rubbing the leaves and stalks between the fingers, the oils are released and the full power released.

The extra dimension of taste can be provided by all fruits, vegetables and herbs, aromatics like Mints, Rosemary and Chives.

Chives, are scented, easy to grow and can be used for cooking too.

Rosemarinus officinales (Rosemary), Mentha spicata (Mint) and Allium schoenoprasum (chives) are also good choices.”


Some care should be taken with aromatic plants if your child has epilepsy. There have been incidences of ‘plant induced seizures’ particularly with rosemary. Something to bear in mind!



In the next post I will show some photos of the physical and homemade sensory toys we have added to our our sensory garden.



Bio for Charlie Bloom

Garden designer and restoration specalist. Having restored the formal garden at Sir John Mills old estate, I moved on to work in the design and restoration of historic and country gardens, with special interest in Cottage style, herbaceous borders and potagers, I now write a bit too. Please ask any questions on my blog about garden design and restoration in Kent and East Sussex. If you have any questions at all about choosing plants for a sensory garden please tweet me at @bloomsblogs or email me at the address on my website.



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