The goal of a general sensory garden is to enliven the sensory nerves through specific selection and careful arrangement of various garden elements. The idea is to create an immersive experience that appeals to one or more of the senses in a garden design that goes beyond the scope of an average garden experience. Sensory gardens should heighten the experience of interaction with nature and provide rich experiences that lead to the above benefits.
A sensory garden designed for general access and enjoyment by the wider community should be accessible and inclusive. They should offer mental and physical stimulation to individuals and groups with medical conditions whose symptoms would normally deny them this stimulation.
These general access spaces should be safe and adhere to proper regulations and the appropriate Standards, such as AD 1428.31992, ‘Design for Access and Mobility’. They should ensure that children in particular will be safe.
Sensory gardens are a place to actively engage the senses by interacting with nature. Where possible, there should be provision for people to engage their senses more deeply by actively working the soil and gardening. As stated by Tyson in her 1998 book, The Healing Landscape, we gain many health benefits just by simply gardening but we can garden intentionally to create a richer experience, both when we work in our garden, and when we just sit back, relax and appreciate it.
Community-wide educational opportunities of a sensory garden
Sensory gardens are an excellent tool for both therapeutic and educational purposes. The educational advantages are not only apparent for children, but extend to the whole community. There are an enormous variety of ways that the experience can be educational, for example, by including a bush tucker garden, adults and children alike can learn about our native flora and fauna.
For children, gardening can also assist their learning in many other ways too, such as by teaching patience and persistence. According to Titman (1994), children describe their ideal school as a place of:
- Doing (physical activities)
- Thinking (intellectual stimulation)
- Feeling (taking care of a place, ownership)
- Being (quiet in noise).
A sensory garden is therefore a perfect learning environment for children and should form a crucial part of their education.
For a list of some of the ways sensory gardens and gardening in general can be beneficial for children’s learning, please see our resource ‘Design Principles for Sensory Gardens.’ (Coming soon)