When we first bought our house, we knew we were taking on a huge renovation project. But now that the inside renovations are nearly finished, we have turned our eye to the garden and this section of the renovations have been the most interesting yet.
The whole house has been decorated and furnished with children in mind and the garden has been no different. We wanted to create a beautiful space that the whole family can enjoy, yet leaving an area that the boys could have as their very own, which lead to the creation of the jungle themed sensory garden.
Sensory gardens are gardens that appeal to the senses, whether that be through sight, touch, smell, taste or sound. All gardens will have a sensory element to them, but sensory gardens tend to be designed around maximising these sensory elements.
We decided to build a pallet mud kitchen for our sensory garden and then work around that. The kitchen itself was basically free to make as the pallets were given to us by a local company and the utensils are olds ones that were hidden at the back of the cupboard and hardly ever used. We decided to keep the mud kitchen quite basic in order to encourage imagination when playing. We also made sure to include a pot of compost for mud pies and a pile of logs.
I also decided to add some spring time bulbs (white daffodils and purple crocus) to one of the pots, so that when the perennial (Mukdenia rossii Karasuba) died back over Winter, there would be a flash of colour in the spring before it came back in the summer.
When choosing the plants, there were two things I considered; how they enticed the senses and if they were low maintenance. The reason I opted for low maintenance plants is because I want the boys to have an area of the garden that they can look after themselves, so the plants need to be relatively low maintenance and easy to look after.
Taste – We have a separate fruit and vegetable patch in the garden, so I didn’t focus on this, but did choose a number of herbs such as; Rosemary, Thyme, Mint, Sage and Chive. By growing the herbs, the boys can help me ‘harvest’ them when they are needed for our dinner.
Smell – Rosemary, Thyme and Mint in particular double up as plants that stimulate the sense of smell as well. However, I did also include chocolate cosmos and lavender as well in order to stimulate the sense of smell. You could also plant hyacinth bulbs, as these are strong smelling, early spring flowers. Honeysuckle is great if you are looking for a large plant that is strong scented when flowering. We are actually going to be growing this on our pergola, when it is built in the next couple of months (but that is for another post).
Touch – There are a number of plants that are great for stimulating the sense of touch. For this sense we included a dwarf conifer, camomile, lambs ear and a couple of small grasses including feathertop, as this one in particular has fluffy type flowers in the spring.
Sound – I focused on bamboo for this one as it rustles in the wind. However bamboo can be incredibly invasive, so we decided on a type of bamboo called ‘Fargesia Red Panda’, which can live happily in a container or pot.
Sight – Again this isn’t one I focused on as we have created a colourful meadow flower border , which includes brightly coloured cornflowers and Ox Eye Daisies, as well as having a number of brightly coloured and visually striking plants throughout the rest of our garden. However, I did choose a ‘New Zealand Flax’ and a ‘Mukdenia Rossii Karasuba’ for the remaining pots in the jungle themed sensory garden, as they fit perfectly with a jungle theme and have a beautiful red and green colouring to them. Sunflowers are a great plant for stimulating the sense of sight as these are so large and have vivid colouring to them. In the spring daffodils, crocus and hyacinths are great additions as they create a splash of colour before the rest of the garden erupts into colour.
Sensory gardens don’t need to be just be about the plants though, there are many other things you can add to it to make it more stimulating to the senses. For example we also put up a bamboo wind chime that creates a low sound when blown in the wind and placed some mini windmills in the planters.
Although not part of the sensory garden, we have put up a lot of different bug houses around the garden, including a butterfly house and ladybird house. Not only are these bugs lovely to see in your garden and great for children to see and learn about, but they are also very useful as well. Butterflies pollinate your flowers, while the ladybirds eat garden pests such as aphids.
One of the best things about sensory gardens is that they are relatively cheap to create. Our one cost just under £130. The planters were made from offcuts of railway sleepers left over from our garden renovation, a local company gave us the pallets completely for free, the pots and pans were old ones hidden at the back of a kitchen cupboard and the herbs were on a 5 for £10 offer at a local garden centre. We did spend £80 on the jungle themed plants, but we could have done this for a lot cheaper if we had bought less established plants. We found some great offers on the bark chippings that cover the floor of the sensory garden, our local garden centre sells 4 big bags for £20. We also attached a screen to the fence behind the sensory garden to make it feel more ‘jungle like’, we have seen these from as little as £15.
Sensory gardens are wonderful to be in, whether large or small and are great for young, imaginative minds. But it is key to remember that when designing a garden for children, not to include anything that is toxic to eat or is an irritant to the skin and to always be aware of any plants that have thorns or brambles.