Therapeutic garden space

What is a sensory garden?

The idea of a sensory garden is that plants, hard landscaping and other garden materials and features are selected for their appeal to all five senses with the aim of offering a richer and perhaps more therapeutic experience to a range of people with different needs.

Some of the aims of a sensory garden include: Encouraging the development of sensory abilities such as smell or touch, creating an interesting place for people with disabilities who may enjoy working and socialising outside of the classroom and a place to relax, be comfortable and feel safe.

What differs a sensory garden from a traditional garden?

All gardens are places where our senses are stimulated but the considered inclusion of features with particular sensory qualities with the particular intention of creating a beneficial environment for disabled people is what makes a sensory garden.

Ideas for the sensory garden:


  • Plant flowers of varying colours. Take the time of day and the seasons into account
  • Include plant varieties with red, soft grey and mixed colour foliage
  • Make use of contrast
  • Clip or prune plants such as conifers (cypresses and pines) into interesting shapes
  • Consider planting long grasses, strap-leaved plants and ‘weeping’ tree varieties – it’s restful to watch and listen to plants moving in the breeze
  • Install a water feature. Include bright varieties of fish and water plants in ponds, with a bench nearby. If a sunken pond is not possible, a raised birdbath or other water feature works well.
  • Include plants that appeal to birds and butterflies, such as bottle brush, lavender and hebe varieties
  • Use trees and plants to hide visually unappealing areas.
  • Choose trees that attract bird life


  • Include nectar-producing plants that lure birds into your garden
  • Encourage birds into your garden with a birdbath
  • Hang wind chimes in breezy areas
  • Install a water feature
  • Choose textured paths that make sounds as you walk on them, such as crushed gravel


  • Incorporate plants with different textures
  • Vary the textures in your garden
  • Choose hardy varieties of plants that can cope with handling
  • Include different types of surfaces along your walkways
  • Place plants and trees close to paths so that anyone walking along them is brushed by foliage
  • Provide sunny and shady areas to offer temperature contrast


  • Plant flowers with subtle smells such as violets
  • Plant aromatic, non-slip creepers or herbs such as mint, thyme or rosemary, near path edges or seats, so that when you walk on them they release a beautiful aroma
  • Space scented flowers at intervals around your garden so that the different scents will not be confusing or overwhelming


  • Grow your own herbs and use them in your cooking
  • Plant a vegetable garden
  • Plant fruit trees in your garden
  • Plant species with edible flowers


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