Garden of Bliss: A sensory garden to calm the senses

Taking in the sights, sounds and smells of this sumptuous Art Nouveau inspired sensory garden in Rayleigh.

Garden of Bliss: A garden for all the senses

A secret sensory garden

Hidden behind this family home in Rayleigh lies a secret. A blissful sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of life. A sensory garden designed for learning and as a family, or relaxing on your own. With quiet corners, sensuous shapes and thriving wildlife to explore and enjoy at your own pace.

What is a sensory garden?

As the name suggests, sensory gardens focus on the human senses and are designed to be soothing or stimulating, therapeutic and educational. So how do you create one? Well, you can select particular plants for their tactile leaves or colourful, aromatic flowers. You can also incorporate elements that encourage wildlife,. This brings wonderful sounds to the garden which, in turn, creates opportunities for learning. But whether it’s designed to be one or all of these things depends on who’s using it and what their individual needs may be.

The brief

This Essex family wanted an outside space in which to escape, relax, learn and grow with their two swing-loving children. It needed to be wildlife friendly and sensory oriented. With room for alfresco dining, outdoor learning, some home-grown produce – and (of course) a swing or two.

The old garden was a series of isolated spaces, with a small garden at the front, a side area and square plot to the rear with a well-established tree. The challenge for Earth Designs was to unite the garden and deliver the sensory experience the family needed, without compromising on style.

The garden design solution

Interestingly, our Garden Designer Kat found the answer in natural patterns and the inviting curves of Art Nouveau design. Using repeating swirling shapes in her design to connect and harmonise the space. “Design elements can be practical and pleasurable” says Kat. “The visual continuity of repeating patterns isn’t just pleasing to the eye, it also calms the senses.” Curvaceous flower beds soften the square edges of the back garden. While a new resin pathway links the spaces, sweeping round the house and through an archway, to a spiral patio at the rear.

Wildlife friendly spaces

Because encouraging wildlife and growing your own produce is a great way to learn about the environment, weather and biology Kat has thought carefully about the planting.

Raised railway sleeper beds house a menu of interesting new smells and tastes to explore. Wildflower borders are bursting with colour, sounds and textures, tall flowering perennials, berry and fruit trees. As a result, bees, birds and butterflies flock to the garden. While a wood store adds texture and encourages insects. Finally, a small, round pond provides the perfect pond-dipping spot.

What’s the benefit of a sensory garden?

But, of course, this isn’t just a home for wildlife. The garden also provides several ideal habitats for the family to eat, relax and chill.

The patio is just right for enjoying a private family meal at the bistro-style table and chairs. While nestled underneath the tree canopy at the end of the garden, is the much-desired swing seat. Which makes the perfect hidey-hole to snuggle up and read or chat with a comforting backdrop of buzzing insects, rustling leaves and birdsong. And if you are in a more solitary mood, there’s a suspended cocoon chair to swing away angst, restore balance and soothe your senses.

What the client thinks

As the owner says, “Kat created a beautiful design that gave us all the different things we wanted and needed.” This is a garden to take your time in. To settle nerves and stimulate ideas. A world of life to absorb, inhale, explore and experience. A haven for all that inhabit it, large and small.

Considering a sensory garden?

Earth Designs are members of the British Association of Landscape Industries and Association of Professional Landscapers. If you’re interested in creating a sensory garden (or any kind of garden makeover) contact Katrina Kieffer-Wells MSGD and her team at to arrange a consultation.