Designing and Building Sensory Gardens

 In Garden Design, Landscaping, Uncategorised

At SilverBirch Gardens we pride ourselves on creating outdoor spaces that appeal to all five senses. Here are our tips of designing and building sensory gardens.

Sensory gardens are incredibly beneficial for all of us. During 2020, the strangest year ever, more and more people came to realise that their gardens offered so much more than just a space to store bikes. Gardens suddenly became centres for wellbeing, food production units, education centres for children, and outdoor recreation places for all. Sensory gardens, of course, fulfill all of these things and more.


Designing and building sensory gardens involves appealing to all of the senses. Sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste. I believe that by combining sensory experiences in the right way, we also satisfy our sixth sense – the intangible sense that makes us feel safe, contented, and relaxed.

My top ten picks for a sensory garden are:

  1. A sheltered arbour draped with scented climbing plants
  2. Outdoor cooking area
  3. Seating area with colourful, comfy cushions and blankets
  4. Water feature – preferably one that brings gentle sounds into the garden
  5. Patio in neutral coloured stone
  6. At least one piece of art
  7. A lawn – ideally natural grass but artificial grass gives the same visual effect
  8. Mixed textures – in both hard landscaping and planting
  9. Trees for shade, for movement and to attract wildlife
  10. Firepit or some other source of warmth for chilly evenings

Make your garden a feast for the eyes

When I’m designing and building sensory gardens I tend to take inspiration from interior design. Numerous studies have found that the colour green is incredibly restful. They also suggest that neutral colours are easier for the brain to process and that too much colour can be exhausting.

Gardens designed by SilverBirch Gardens are always client-led, but if I’m honest, I prefer to use neutral coloured hard surfaces. I also like to add lots of planting, hedges, trees, and lawns for that all important greenery. Finally, I like to design in an occasional pop of bright colour to brighten things up. Colour might come from plants, from pots, or from furnishings.

For clients whose eyesight is challenged, using colour contrasts can help them navigate around the garden. A light coloured patio beside a deep green lawn. Carefully designed lighting helps to make the garden more accessible after dark.

traditional garden design with circular lawn and bee friendly planting

Neutral colour tones with lots of contrasts in texture make for a restful garden.
Notice how the colour of the fence in the background is picked up by the nepeta plants in the foreground

Soothing Sounds

A couple of months ago I wrote about landscaping to block out noise. Specifically road noise. Now I’m writing about landscaped gardens that make noises. Gentle sounds such as long grasses shifting in the breeze, birdsong, bees or gently trickling water, are all wonderfully soothing.  If, like me, you enjoy a good podcast or music while you relax, why not introduce some outdoor speakers into a pergola or a small shelter? Far more comfortable than headphones! Just try not to annoy the neighbours by turning up the Black Sabbath while they’re trying to snooze.

Some garden features appeal to more than one sense. Look for plants that create sound, scent and texture all at once. Or design your water feature so that you can dangle fingers and toes in it on a hot day.

Sensuous Scents

cooking meat and vegetables on barbecue

Not every scent in the garden needs to come from the plants!

There are so many wonderful smells in the garden. I love the heady fragrance of old fashioned roses, the scent of newly mown grass, and the fresh tang of herbs. But most of all I relish the smells that waft permeate from an outdoor kitchen when the sausages and onions are almost ready to eat.

Tactile Textures

It’s very easy to get carried away with the sense of touch when designing and building a sensory garden. It’s not just your fingers that touch though – your feet are sensitive to different textures too – and so is your backside.

Think about what it would be like to walk from a smooth porcelain patio to a scrunchy gravel path. Or to stroll across a velvety lawn. As adults we tend to take these things for granted but for small children, learning to travel across different surfaces is an important part of developing proprioception on different surfaces. And for pet owners, introducing your pup to different surfaces is vital part of socialisation.

Flavoursome Food

Your garden has the potential to provide you with some of the most delicious fruit and veg you’ll ever taste. Even a tidy garden has room to grow a few salad veggies in pots or a ballerina apple tree. Nothing surpasses the pleasure of picking and eating your own food – and the fresher it is, the sweeter it will taste.

But if you’re not confident in your gardening skills, your plot can still be the source of delicious food. And yes, I’m talking about outdoor cooking. In my honest opinion, every garden should have space for at least a barbecue or smoker, if not a beautifully equipped outdoor kitchen.

sensory garden after dark

A good garden should offer a sensory experience at any time of the day or night

Tailor-made sensory gardens

Every outdoor designed and built by SilverBirch gardens will be tailored to the client’s individual sensory needs. If fragrant flowers help you to relax, we’ll make sure they are in the planting plan. If you crave the sound of a babbling brook, we’ll build you a water feature. Love colour – we have plenty of tricks up our sleeves to make your garden colourful all year round.

Contact SilverBirch Gardens today to discover what it would cost to design and build a sensory garden for you and your family.

Contact SilverBirch Gardens

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