Sensory perceptions that range from sight and hearing, smell and touch, to even taste may be evoked by sensory gardens.
The common focus of all Sensory Gardens is the creation an immersive experience that appeals to one or more of the five senses and that is beyond the scope of a normal garden. The experience for observers and participants is often described to be invigorating, relaxing and stimulating to some degree. Sensory garden can serve therapeutic and educational purposes for children and adults alike.
Anyone can partake in the experience of sensory gardens, but it is especially helpful for individuals with disabilities that affect their sensory responses.
Garden elements that comprise the main features of Sensory Gardens include hardscape and plant display. Hardscape elements are the physical details of the garden that exclude plants. They are integral parts of the sensory experience, as the arrangement of walls, footpaths, seating and signage can allow ease of access and interactivity, all of which are important aspects to consider when designing Sensory Gardens for use by disabled individuals.
The selection of plants depends on the level of interaction visitors are allowed in the garden. Visitors are usually encouraged to closely view and touch the plants for an immersive experience. Reactions from tasting and smelling plants may also be elicited, and such actions could require detaching a piece of the plant to do so. Due to the high level of interactivity expected, plant selections should be safe for touch and consumption, durable and hardy, and appropriate for its intended use.
Sensory gardens can be designed to stimulate one particular sense or multiples senses and are usually adapted with consideration for the particular disability of its intended audience. A visually oriented garden may focus on such details as texture, color scheme, shape and size, and movement of the plants and hardscape elements.