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By Debbie Clark

If you’ve ever been fortunate enough to visit the Chelsea Flower Show, or indeed any of the incredible garden showcases we are blessed with in the UK, you will have experienced first-hand the ability a well designed garden has to transform your mood.

The good news is you don’t have to be an expert to make positive changes to your own outdoor environment and one really powerful way to do this is through ensuring all of your senses are stimulated in the space. By thinking about how you want to feel in your garden and what makes you tick, you can start to really make your space work for you.


It may seem obvious that your garden will provide visual stimuli, but how it does so can vary tremendously through your choice of plants, flowers and ornaments. You may prefer a minimalist look or have an eclectic style. Let your garden reflect that. Choose plants with a range of colours and patterns. Visual interest can also be achieved by choosing plants of different heights and varying habits, for example, climbing plants. 


Welcoming insects and birds to your garden is a great way to ensure natural noise. You will also get satisfying sounds from plants that the wind will pass through, such as bamboo and long grasses. The presence of water is very therapeutic for some people and the sounds produced by a water feature can be easily adjusted, by changing the speed of the pump for example, so experiment. Wind chimes are also popular and can add another level of interest.  


It is lovely to have flowers, such as roses in the garden whose scent is immediately perceived and enjoyed. However, it is also nice to have a range of subtler scents that rouse your curiosity and invite you to get up close. Herbs are a great addition to any garden – and useful too. It is also worth considering what scents you will enjoy at different times of year. Lavender is beautifully scented on a warm day but you may want some winter flowering plants to ensure your garden is inviting through the colder months too.


Many plants invite touch and it is easy to incorporate a range of textures into your garden in this way. Contrasts in texture can also be achieved, either naturally or through the use of stones, slate or paving.


It can be hugely satisfying to grow your own fruits, herbs and spices, just be careful that the plants you choose are in fact edible! If you have the space to go all out, growing your own vegetables is a richly rewarding venture. 

Whether your garden is your own peaceful haven or a space in which you enjoy entertaining friends and family, making your garden inviting to the senses is a worthwhile project you can continue to enjoy through the seasons. 

Did You Know?

  • The RHS Feel Good Garden, designed by Matt Keightley in 2018, was relocated to Highgate Mental Health Centre following the show and marked the start of a partnership between the RHS and NHS to promote the wellbeing benefits of gardens
  • Sensory gardens have a wide range of educational and recreational applications including use with children with special needs and adults with dementia
  • Sensory gardens can be found all around the world including the BlindenGarten in Germany, a smell and touch garden arranged around a central fountain to provide acoustic orientation for blind and visually impaired visitors

Images courtesy of Barratt Homes


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