I have come across sensory gardens in my travels, and they are all in public places, or maybe in a park or a specialist garden open to the public. But why not create one in your own back garden? A challenge indeed, and it would take some planning.

Those who are blind or visually impaired may not be able to fully appreciate colours or landscape design, but sensory gardens offer them a unique and enchanting way to experience nature and engage their other senses.

But you don’t have to be blind to enjoy a sensory garden, as a thoughtfully designed garden can appeal to all the senses, and obviously smell is the first one that springs to mind. But how about sound? Touch? Taste? These other senses can be successfully enhanced for everyone.

A way to connect with nature

Sensory gardens could allow someone to better connect with nature, as well as create a space designed to promote mindfulness and reduce stress, and a garden specifically designed for those with diminished sight can appeal to all senses without overwhelming any one of them, no matter what knowledge of gardening is previously experienced. A sensory garden can have positive effects, providing a valuable distraction for some, or a calm place to relax for others.


It goes without saying that fragrance is a critically important aspect of sensory gardens. But it’s important to choose scents carefully. Over-powering fragrances may be unpleasant for those with a heightened sensitivity to odours, especially as losing one sense will increase the other senses. By mixing up plants that smell differently can help the visually impaired person find their way around the garden, like a map, and maybe knowing that lavender is the first stop might aid their ability to remember the sequence of ‘what’s next’ and so on. Even grass has a smell, especially when freshly mown.


Adding things with sounds such as tinkling wind chimes or water features - trickling fountains maybe - are good ways to make your sensory garden special, and adding a birdbath would encourage birds and buzzing insects to visit, both of which make recognisable sounds. Even changes in walkway texture might create different sounds that could help someone move round.


Sensory gardens offer a wonderful opportunity for tactile exploration. Plants and flowers with interesting textures - who can resist touching the velvety leaves of African violets, for example, and blossoms on some plants, such as hibiscus, gardenia, and most lilies, feel silky to the touch. Others, such as scented geranium, lemon balm, and mint release their scents when they are touched. Ornamental grasses could be incorporated in a ‘touch’ section, the feel of those soft fronds on most grasses is easy on the fingers!

Credits: Unsplash;


What plants taste good? Nasturtiums, evening primrose, hibiscus, and pansy, along with some berries, fruit trees, vegetables, herbs, and spices could be included, but when planting edible items, take care to place them in an area that is distinctly different from the rest of the garden, maybe adding a fence to separate them.


Easy navigation and safety must come first, so handrails might be needed for differing inclines, and things planted in straight lines should be considered. Plants should be easily reached for, so narrow beds are something to consider, and nothing obviously prickly or poisonous to the touch (or taste for that matter) should be planted. Rocks or small fences bordering the garden would help those with sticks negotiate their way, and if you are keen enough, signs braille would really ‘up’ your game.

Choose plants selectively to ensure a successful garden - and adding a bench or chair somewhere restful or shady would be good – somewhere to sit and peacefully soak up the sounds and smells would likely be much appreciated.


Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man. 

Marilyn Sheridan