A sensory garden needs to appeal in three ways: sight, smell, and touch.
A sensory garden can have special importance for gardeners, friends and family with impaired senses. The aim is to construct a garden using plants which appeal to the senses and which are tactile and strongly scented.
When constructing a sensory garden, the hard landscaping needs to consider accessibility for visitors who have impaired mobility. For maximum accessibility in a sensory garden, plants are best incorporated in raised beds surrounded by hard landscaping of a generous width, for easy access ensuring visitors and gardeners alike can reach, touch and enjoyed garden. In a sensory garden, the choice of plants and flowers is centred on plants which are good to enjoy by touch and smell.
Since touch is important in a sensory garden, check out that none of the plants or shrubs is toxic as many can cause skin irritation. The RHS has a comprehensive list.
The image right above shows a great plant for a sensory garden, Stachys byzantina 'Big Ears' which has lovely downy leaves which are irresistibly soft to touch, and it will trail downwards if planted in a raised bed. Stachys only produce a single, soft flower spike with pale lavender flowers (which are very attractive to bees) but the leaves are soft and downy.
Grasses make a great addition in a sensory garden because they create movement and will sway, dance and drift around on a breeze. In addition, many grasses have fluffy plumes which are tactile to touch, illustrated on the grasses pages.
Scent is one of the most important factors in a sensory garden. Plants such as Lavender and rosemary are aromatic to the touch and produce scent if planted where visitors will brush along the plant releasing the scent.
There are a number of pelargoniums (also known as geraniums) which have strongly scented leaves when stroked or picked such as 'Aroma', crispum 'Variegatum', (lemon scented leaves) 'Fragrans', (pine scented) 'Graveolens' of gardens, (sweet scented) 'Old Spice' (spicy scented) 'Prince of Orange', (orange scented) Sweet Mimosa, and many more. These are available from specialist growers, but they are not hardy and must be overwintered under glass in frost free environment. Pelargoniums will survive well in a conservatory tolerating the extremes of heat and produce colour and scent as part of an indoor garden. In a raised bed they are colourful and the leaves will release a variety of scents when touched.