The Sensory Botanic Garden

The Sensory Garden, sited along the limited mobility track, is an inspirational garden intended to engage and stimulate the senses through a variety of plants and innovative garden design.

A sensory garden provides pleasure not only through its visual appeal but also through smell, touch, hearing and sometimes taste. This garden displays plants from the Eurobodalla region which add colour, form, fragrance and texture to the landscape.

Garden Design

The sensory garden aims to encourage interactivity. Raised garden beds allow close access to plants enabling people of all ages and abilities to smell and touch.

Paths, as well as allowing easy access, give structure to the garden. The contrasting surface materials used add to the visual texture as well as the ‘feel’ underfoot. Large rocks of local granite make a further contribution to texture and form adding height to the landscape.

Water creates a liquid dimension. The gentle sound of running water soothes, relaxes and gives a sense of coolness on a warm day. For those with impaired vision it also provides an orientation point.

People and especially children are fascinated by water: the hand pump with its colourful mosaic surround invites interaction and play.

The pergola contributes vertical structure, the different roofing elements achieve contrasting light and shade. It provides a sheltered place to sit and contemplate, listen, watch or simply relax.

Sense of Sight

The form, colour and texture of plants all have visual appeal.

Form varies tremendously; tall/prostrate, compact/spreading, straight/weeping, single trunked/branched, trunked/tufted, delicate/bold. Leaf shape also adds to form. The form of a particular plant may create a focal point in the garden. Plants can be used to give a sense of formality or informality; softness or structure.

Colour of flowers and foliage contribute to the feel of a garden. Blues give a sense of coolness and restfulness, yellows brightness and liveliness, reds warmth and strength. Pigments making up flower colour are produced to attract pollinators.

Generally the flowers of Australian plants are small: in a bright, sunny world they have no need of large petals to guide their bird or insect pollinators to the centre of the flower. However, massed they can create an eye-catching display of colour.

Fruits, especially colourful berries as well as buds and calyces (the outermost part of the flower) can extend the time colour is present.

Foliage of Australian plants varies from a range of greens to grey-greens and blue-greens. The lighter colours reflect heat and light under growing conditions of strong light intensity.

New growth is often red or bronze. Some mature foliage may also be reddish, thought to protect the plant from frost or drought.

Leaves are often small, an adaptation to the need to conserve water. Background colour can also be provided by trunks and branches.

Texture of foliage, bark, flowers and fruits adds to the visual effect of plants be it smooth, rough, soft, spiky, delicate or tough.

Sense of Smell

Perfume from flowers and the aroma from oils released in leaves contribute to fragrance in a garden, though not all may be considered pleasant.

People interpret smell in different ways: what may be delightful to some may be offensive to others. Also smells obvious to some cannot be detected by others.

Flower perfumes come and go with the seasons and can vary according to the time of day because their production is primarily to attract pollinators to the flower.

Leaves producing oils are present year round. Their aromas are released after rain or on a particularly hot day. Leaves can also be crushed to release the oils. Some need only to be brushed against. Oils in leaves help reduce water loss in strong windy or sunny situations. Aromatic leaves can also be a deterrent to predators.

Smell often has an effect on our emotions, for instance memories of place. For many the distinct aroma of eucalyptus is associated with the Australian bush.

Sense of Hearing

Sound is created by the movement of water and plants that sigh or rustle as wind disturbs their foliage. The form and texture of the foliage determine the sound made as the breeze blows. Insects and birds attracted to the garden by plants add distinct sounds.

Sense of Touch

All parts of a plant in some way contribute to the textural feel of a garden. The textures of bark, leaves, flowers and fruits can invoke a desire to touch.

A smooth trunk invites stroking, hairy leaves have a touch of velvet, the rough or tough and even the spiky can add to the enjoyment of touching.

Sense of Taste

Some local Australian plants produce a range of edible fruits, nuts, seeds, leaves and tubers. They contribute commercially to a growing bush food industry.

Tasting of plants without a guide is not advisable. Some plants contain toxins that must be removed before the plant is safe to eat. Many plant foods were carefully prepared by Aboriginal people through processes which involved washing and leaching in running water or other specialised means to remove the toxins.

The Sensory Garden was funded by the Disability Advisory Committee of Eurobodalla Shire Council and the Friends of the Eurobodalla Regional Botanic Gardens. Landscape design donated by Warwick Ralph B Arch Dip LD. Staff and volunteers constructed and planted the garden.