The Wokingham Paper

Create a sensory garden to help reduce anxiety and stress

Sensory garden

Sensory gardens are great for helping to reduce anxiety and stress, providing a natural retreat to relax in and offering us a place that encourages well-being and mindfulness. 

A sensory garden is really just a collection of plants and materials with different textures, shapes, colours, scents and heights that are laid out in such a way to stimulate our senses through smell, sound, touch, taste and sight. 

Adding visual interest to a garden can be easily achieved by being clever and selective with your planting. 

Use flowering perennials, layer plants at different heights, use screens or hedges to form backdrops and plant rows of the same species to elongate areas. 

You can also make sure your planting has the desired effect by using colour to provide focal points and ambience. 

For stimulating, invigorating areas use hot, vibrant colours – reds, pinks and yellows.  Think sunflower, echinachea, marigold, salvia, dahlia even ornamental veg such as swiss chard with its multi-coloured stems and leaves. 

For a more gentle, calm effect use cool, relaxing colours such as whites, blues and greens.  Lavender, foxglove, hydrangea, delphinium and climbers that also provide height such as jasmine and honeysuckle.

Plants and trees that change colour through the seasons also provide interest with blossoms and berries and leaves that turn to shades of gold, red and brown in the autumn.

 Changes in colour and appearance of materialslike paved and pebble pathways when they get wet also add colour and visual appeal. Shapes are also important in a sensory garden, so try using materials like crazy paving and rough-cut flagstones. You can also create interesting routes and pathways through the garden to promote a sense of discovery and orientation.

Movement catches the eye, so think about trees that wave in the wind such as willow or grasses that sway in the breeze.  Water features provide wonderful focal points and also attract wildlife.  Make sure you have a variety of plants that attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies as well – lovely to watch of a summer’s afternoon. 

Our general well-being is intrinsically linked to the natural world which is why Thrive – the gardening for health charity – has developed the Thrive Gardening Club.  Fortnightly tips on getting the most out of your garden, whatever you age or ability, and information on how gardening can keep you healthy and feeling good.

Thrive is based in Beech Hill and is one of the UK’s leading providers of social and therapeutic horticulture programmes using gardening to bring about positive changes in the lives of people living with disabilities, ill-health or mental health issues, or who are isolated, disadvantaged or vulnerable. For more details, log on to:

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