How to Design a 5 Senses Garden

The best way to enjoy outdoor space is to engage all five senses – touch, sound, sight, smell and taste. Sensory gardens are known for their therapeutic benefits, bringing relaxation and enjoyment. Here’s how you can create a 5-senses feast in your backyard:

  • Choose what kind of sensory space you’d like

You can design a small area containing different experiences, or a trail through your garden that leads visitors to discover various aspects. Ask yourself who will be enjoying the space and when, so you can tailor your project. If you mostly use your space at night, you’ll need to consider adding lighting and perhaps a fire pit. If you regularly eat meals outside, include plenty of seating space with interesting focal points that can be viewed from that vantage point.

  • Seeing is believing

Incorporate different textured path surfaces that wind in and out of the shade, so visitors can enjoy each curve. Set up feeders and nectar-rich plants like salvia, wisteria and Russian sage so you’ll have plenty of birds and butterflies to look at. Use interesting materials like bark chips, bales of hay and large mounds of flowers to draw the eye. Choose plants that change throughout the seasons, and ones that produce berries or interesting foliage. Have some climbing varieties to encourage people to look up. Combine different complimentary and contrasting colors, too.


Flowers that smell fabulous are always a wonderful addition to a 5-senses garden. Choose varieties that can be smelled without touching the plant, such as roses or honeysuckle, ones that should be sniffed up close, like primroses and violets, and ones that have to be crushed, including scented geraniums and culinary herbs like lemon thyme and rosemary.


What’s more fun than being able to sample things from the garden? Mint, basil and lemon balm not only smell divine, but they taste great, too. Choose plants that are tough and can withstand a lot of handling. Planting a vegetable garden brings great rewards – a bountiful harvest, plus lots of rich colors and textures to see and taste. Plus, you can teach kids where food comes from.

Feels so good

Exploring with our hands makes us appreciate nature! Plant shrubs and trees along a path, so visitors can touch the bark and the foliage. For fruit trees, keep lower branches kids can easily climb to pick apples or pears. Vary heights within your garden – have short and tall sculptures, plants and water elements, so both children and adults can see everything up close. Encourage visitors to touch everything!

Hear’s looking at you

Water features are a wonderful treat for the ears, so incorporate a fountain or waterfall. A birdbath will bring fine-featured chirping to your yard and provide an attractive focal point. Soft wind chimes are great, too. Think about planting varieties that make noise in the wind, like bamboo, and underfoot, like seedpods that crunch when stepped on.


Girl smelling yellow flower:
Photo Credit: Philippe Put Flickr via Compfight cc

2 birds and feeder:
Photo Credit: photomason via Compfight cc

Boy with big cucumbers:
Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks Flickr via Compfight cc

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