Who has experience creating a sensory garden for their kids or students? It seems like I've heard a lot about the benefits of engaging the senses this way for development and working with kids who are differently abled, does anyone know of specific research into this? I heard about this idea while working at a Montessori school and really fell in love with it. Here are some of my thoughts around designing one:
1. Potentially consider native species first (Northeast United States, zone 6a)
2. Probably would want to make sure all plants are non-toxic in case someone tries to eat from a different category (say eating a "touch")
3. Plant ideas!
Touch- different textures, moving parts
Lamb's Ear (Stachys byzantina)
Sound- seedpods, water features, bee and insect attractors, rustling foliage
Money plant (Lunaria annua)- seedpods
You can see there is a lot of overlap too, especially since I'm looking to make all the plants non-toxic. Sound seems to be the hardest category to brainstorm in. The more I look into this and think about it, the more excited I get to try this out at home... I have a brand new hugel that needs populating, maybe I'll make it a sensory hugel? What other ideas and experiences do you have? Which other plants could I put on this list?
Ah, yes! I was trying to think of garden sorrel, with a lemony taste! Great ideas Tyler! Both garden sorrel (Rumex acetosa), the salad green, and wood sorrels (Oxalis), shamrocks, would make great additions.
Timothy Markus wrote:Mimosa pudica will grow seasonally. It's the plant that folds its leaves when touched.
Such a good idea. When I was in Jamaica, they call this plant "shame o lady" and it's quite common out in the bush. This makes me think of another plant that would be a good "touch" plant- Obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana), when you adjust the flowers on they flower head (which it tall and spiky like a Snapdragon), they stay in the place you move them to. Florists love them and probably kids too!
You might also consider some tea-making plants, for drying and later seasonal use to continue the sensory exploration, such as chamomile, bergamo, tea plant (hardy to 6-9), mint, rose hips, echinacea, raspberry, lavender, calednula, hyssop, and yarrow.
I am an outdoor and garden educator and the author of The School Garden Curriculum: An Integrated K-8 Guide to Discovering Science, Ecology, and Whole-Systems Thinking. Inspired by ecological design and permaculture principles, my goal is to make weekly gardening lessons more easily accessible to all educators and to inspire the next generation of change-makers.
Not the kind of sensory experience we're looking for, I take it?
I second Kaci Rae's tea suggestion. Literally anything that is used in the making of traditional or herbal tea mixes, also any spices you can grow, and any herbs, especially if they will, for instance, be scented ground-cover-type herbs that will, say, mix in with lawn, giving you tiny little flowers, pollinators, and a sensation like walking through an herb warehouse any time the lawn is mowed. Neighbours at a cottage once had oregano and thyme creep their way into the lawn, and they went to seed before they were caught. Then the owners mowed the lawn, spreading the seed from one edge of the lawn to the other. The beesloved it.
Though thistles are pretty too...
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
-Robert A. Heinlein
So anything that makes tea was already referenced, but worth considering are there any teas that would help with lowering the general anxiety level and expanding the operable comfort zone.
Wild Lettuce, Chamomille, Mimosa Tree come to mind.
"Adaptogens are a unique class of healing plants: They help balance, restore and protect the body. According to naturopath Edward Wallace, an adaptogen doesn’t have a specific action; it helps you respond to any influence or stressor, normalizing your physiological functions."
Spilanthes acmella is a gateway plant for young people, eating a flower-bud is such a memorable experience and the perfect little prank.
Sweet aztec plant has a great form and texture, as does the bookleaf conifer.
My favorite leaves to crush and smell are patchouli and citrus, holy basil also.
Examine your lifestyle, multiply it by 7.7 billion other ego-monkeys with similar desires and query whether that global impact is conscionable.
For sound, Breadseed poppies! I remember how much fun it was to shake their seed pods and pretend they were jars of peppers. Come to think of it, that's probably why my mom had those poppies growing everywhere-ha!