The Sensory Garden Layout - full size picture at bottom of the post.
The Sensory Garden Layout – full size picture at bottom of the post.

Our sensory garden plan is finished! Most who follow along with the blog know that it has been Mary’s dream as an Occupational Therapist to create a space at the farm to help those with special needs find comfort, learn, explore and grow.  With a finished plan – the dream is now one step closer.  We have approached it as we have with every other project on the farm – using reclaimed resources throughout the design – including old windows and bricks that will become part of a new covered garden house pergola as the centerpiece.

The garden will sit at the top of the hill, overlooking the farm below. To the casual visitor, it will look like a typical space filled with herbs, flowering plants, a water feature and garden house.  And for many days, it will be just that – a place for us to enjoy, take a walk, or have a quiet evening dinner underneath the garden house pergola.

But for Mary and others who will use the space – it will also become a place to help those with special needs by appealing to all of their senses – especially those of smell, vision, touch, and hearing.

The garden uses the familiar shape of the logo for Autism - the puzzle piece.
The garden uses the familiar shape of the logo for Autism – the puzzle piece.

Sensory gardens are places designed to help those with special needs to relax and enjoy themselves by stimulating their senses in a comfortable and safe way.  Their different way of learning sometimes can become difficult in typical environments. The sensory garden can incorporate what is taught in the classroom and apply it in a natural outside environment.

We designed the garden in the shape of one of the most widely recognized symbols for autism – the puzzle piece.  The main 6′ brick pathway extends straight through the center of the puzzle piece, with a large 20 x 10′ pergola and garden house structure that will anchor the center area.  It will have a gabled metal roof, with four reclaimed windows used to create an open-style covered structure. Benches on each corner will provide a shady quiet place to relax, rest, and take in the environment – with a reclaimed 10′ barn table directly in the center.

We use ornamental peppers almost everywhere at the farm to add color to the landscape
Bright vibrant plants like the beautiful ornamental pepper plants will be used to stimulate the senses
Herbs such as basil will be used to stimulate the senses
Herbs such as basil will bring smell, texture and taste to the garden

As you walk under the arbored entrance – there will be vibrant, colorful plantings. Flowering bulbs, sunflowers, marigolds, petunias, ornamental peppers, swiss chard and chocolate ruffles will be among the many plants that give an explosion of color for the eyes.

From the main walkway, there will be six paths leading to different areas for the senses.  To the right, an area for sound and hearing – filled with bamboo and bamboo wind chimes, along with rustling plantings of grasses, popcorn stalks and more.  To the left, an area for smell and taste – filled with an assortment of fragrant, tasty plants and herbs such as chives, mints, dill, rosemary, basil, strawberries and blueberries among others.

From the main garden house – two more paths will extend to the open areas of the puzzle piece.  To the left will be a big water pond feature full of sounds and sights.  To the right, a platform therapy swing installed on a pergola frame,  located underneath the shaded canopy of an existing large oak.

Bamboo wind chimes for the sound
We want to add bamboo wind chimes like these to add sound to the garden

Finally, at the back, there will be two sensory learning areas dedicated to touch.  On one side a covered potting shed that will be used to learn about the feel of soil, sand and plants. Allowing children to plant their own seeds to take back with them.  The other side will be home to a covered and elevated sand box area that allows children to work and play with sand, marbles and other materials of different textures and shapes.

Over time, the entire garden area in between the “designated” areas will be filled in with hundreds of plants that can stimulate all of the senses.  Colorful annuals and perennials like curry, lavender, Jerusalem and silver sage, lambs ear and hens and chicks to name just a few. It will be full of plantings that celebrates the senses and seasons.

Completing The Project:

We will use reclaimed brick for the 6' wide main walkway, adding beauty, color and texture to the landscape
We will use reclaimed brick for the 6′ wide main walkway, adding beauty, color and texture to the landscape
We will a pergola garden structure to the center of the garden, matching  the style of our garden pergola but with some added touches like a gabled rood and reclaimed window walls
We will add a pergola garden structure to the center of the garden. It will match the style of our garden pergola but with some added features like a gabled roof and reclaimed window walls

March will mark the start of the first phase of the process – laying out the bed space, seeding the grassy areas around, and installing the crushed limestone base for the walkways. It will take a little time, but over the next 6 months, we hope to complete the remaining 5 phases :

Phase 2 (April) Transplanting – using all the available plants we have secured and saved and installing them in the given areas.

Phase 3 (May)  Planting remainder of annuals and perennials

Phase 4 (June) Installing reclaimed brick paver center walkway

Phase 5 (July) Installing the water feature

Phase 6 (August) Installing the Pergola, Potting Shed area and Swing area

Hopefully, by mid summer, a lifelong dream for Mary will come to fruition with the completion of the garden!  We will post updates and pictures along the way.

Have a great Sunday everyone!

Jim and Mary

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The Sensory Garden Layout - full size picture at bottom of the post.
The Sensory Garden Layout

9 thoughts on “The Completed Sensory Garden Plan – One Step Closer To Helping Autistic And Special Needs Children

  • March 31, 2014 at 8:49 am

    My grandson greatly benefitted from Occupational Therapy and sensory tolerance instruction. This is a wonderful idea. I never realized that Grandma’s flower garden may have helped!

  • April 19, 2013 at 6:32 am

    Sounds wonderful! Be very careful with the bamboo as it will spread everywhere unless you plant in a pot in the ground to contain the runners. I have some now wanting to grow under my deck thru the deckboards and I wish I had *never* planted it!!

  • April 18, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    What a great idea , Mary!!
    I am so happy for you to see your dream come true!
    Maybe sometime, Mylie and I can get over to see it 🙂

  • March 4, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    Just found you through the homestead barnhop. So excited to see a final picture of your garden and I appreciate you helping those with sensory needs.

  • March 4, 2013 at 9:31 am

    This is amazing!! As a mother of a child with ASD & ADHD,I have always let my son help me in the garden. He seems to become very content and even though he may not like all the smells he loves to touch the different vegtables and especially the pumpkins and gourds with the warts!LOL! I applaud your project and hope to visit it someday with my family! I truly appreciate people like you who are inventive and giving 🙂

  • March 3, 2013 at 11:20 am

    You are my inspiration! You plan and then you do! I am keeping all your posts so I too will complete all my small farm projects! Can’t wait to see it all done and maybe be invited to see your great dream come true! Congrat’s and good luck!

  • March 3, 2013 at 9:58 am

    Love it Mary it is just beautiful. I am so happy for you to be fulfilling such a dream. You are amazing!

  • March 3, 2013 at 9:42 am

    How exciting! Oh, I wish we could visit! When my Aspie was younger, the sandbox was his favorite place. It calmed him like nothing else. The plan is amazing and how cool that it is shaped like a puzzle piece! Continued blessings!

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