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Plants give us multi-sensory experiences by tantalizing our senses of sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch. Visitors to the garden who may be impaired by one or more of these senses often find deep satisfaction from plants that offer another level of sensory enjoyment. But even garden visitors whose senses are fully functional will enjoy designing a sensory garden to explore the depth of what plants have to offer.

A Joy to See

A landscape awash with color immediately pleases our sense of sight. Although we typically think of flowers as adding the color to a landscape, foliage, fruits and even bark can also add colorful touches.

Representing every color in the rainbow, flowers are truly the visual workhorses of any garden. Cheery Stella d'Oro Daylilies (Hemerocallis ‘Stella d’Oro’) brighten any sunny garden nook, and the blue flowers of Lily of the Nile (Agapanthus orientalis) rise in peaceful splendor above the strap-shaped foliage.

Some trees bear colorful flowers, too. The Yoshino Cherry tree (Prunus x yedoenis) is covered in dainty white blossoms in early spring to herald the coming of warm weather.

The red berries of American Holly (Ilex opaca) aren’t just for holiday decorations — they’re also a fruiting food source for birds!

A Heavenly Fragrance

From the romantic fragrance of Gardenias (Gardenia jasminoides) to the intoxicating scent of Tea Olive (Osmanthus fragrans), there’s a fragrant flower to suit everyone’s sense of smell. Be sure to plant fragrant flowers near your favorite sitting area – patios, verandas and decks – for maximum sensory experience!

A Pleasing Sound

As the wind moves through the trees in your yard, your sense of sound is stimulated. But you can even enjoy the “whoosh” of a breeze blowing through ornamental grasses, such as Purple Maiden Grass (Miscanthus ‘Purpurascens’).

A Textured Touch

Plant some crape myrtle trees (Lagerstroemia spp.), such as Catawba (purple flowers), Tuscarora (watermelon pink flowers) or Natchez (white flowers), and you’ll not only enjoy the visual (colorful flowers), but the tactile (touch). As crape myrtles age, their bark peels away in curls to reveal a mottled trunk underneath!

A Luscious Taste

If you grow plants that produce edible fruits and berries, you’ll enjoy “sensory garden overload” with flowers in spring, fruits in summer and vibrant foliage color in autumn! Depending on your taste preferences (and growing zone), plant Blueberries (Vaccinium spp.), Apples (Malus spp.), Peaches (Prunus spp.) or Strawberries (Fragaria spp.).