Creating a garden that stimulates all of your senses using water-wise plants, can be very rewarding.  Enjoying not only the sights and smells of your garden, but hearing, touching and tasting it is a matter of choosing just the right plant and locating it where it will deliver the most enjoyment to your senses.
Touch A garden pathway is an ideal place to locate touchable plants such as New Zealand Wind Grass, Stipa arundinacea or native Deer Grass such as Muhlenbergia ngens.  They invite visitors to linger while gently passing the foliage or flower over their hand.  Using walk-able ground covers such as Yarrow, Achillea tomentosa on pathways instead of stone or grass will provide your feet with unexpected sensation.  Kids love the deceptively soft foliage of Lambs Ears, Stachys byzantina; it’s like having a petting zoo in their own backyard.

Stachys bizantina, Stipa arundinacea, Rosmarinus prostratus

Sound Instead of depending upon wind chimes to add sound to your garden, add trees or shrubs that attract song birds or humming birds to bring in natural sounds.   Nectar producing shrubs such as Ava’s Hummingbird Mint, Agastache ‘Ava’ attract hummingbirds.  To enjoy the gurgling sound of water slowly running over stones, add a water feature or a pond-less urn-style fountain.   Capture the sound of the breeze rustling through the grass by adding tall clumping Feather Reed Grass, Calamagrostis acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster.’

Water feature surrounded by edible strawberries designed by Julia Konye, Green Willow Gardens

Smell By spreading roses throughout the garden rather than grouping them all in one area, visitors enjoy their intoxicating scent repeatedly. Heirloom roses, found at specialty stores like Roses of Yesterday and Today, have the best fragrance.  Adding plants that have scented foliage such as Cleveland Sage, Salvia clevelandii and Lemon thyme, Thymus citriodorus to areas around pathways, smell wonderful when brushed against.  Consider growing perfumed vines to add even more fragrance.  While the Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ is a popular choice for its sweet perfume that can fill a garden, remember that it is also toxic to pets.

Sit on the bench and enjoy the fragrant apple blossoms and lavender. Design by Julie Orr.

Taste You can look beyond your vegetable garden for edible plants, your ornamental garden can offer its own tasty delights. New varieties of artichokes, cabbage and lettuce offer distinctive foliage colors and textures that fit well with perennials.  Edible flowers such as nasturtiums and pansies can be added to salads or used as garnish.  Culinary herbs such as oregano, sage, or rosemary can be mixed with perennials.

Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea; Delta Sunflower, Helianthus annuus, attract pollinators. Garden design Julie Orr

Sight Creating a pleasing visual picture can be done by varying the height, form, color and texture of your plantings.  Placing ground covers in contrasting colors under taller perennials will add sparkle.  Adding outdoor lighting will illuminate your garden at night. Use a neighbor’s tree or other element as a center of visual interest for creating a frame of your own. An element of mystery can be added by having garden pathways disappear behind larger plantings.
What sensory experience do you want to add to your garden?  A well designed sustainable sensory garden can provide long term enjoyment of earthly delights.
Thank you Maureen Decombe, Green Willow Gardens, for permission to use your pictures as design examples.