Sensory Gardens: Listening to Plants




MAGS4DORSET’S charity of the year – November 


Cherry Tree Nursery is the Bournemouth-based project of the registered charity the Sheltered Work Opportunities Project (SWOP), which also has a Poole project, Chestnut Nursery.

Sensory Gardens: Listening to Plants


Over the course of the summer, Cherry Tree Nursery volunteers participated in the ‘Fl-utter-ances’ arts project, which involved listening, analysing and mapping the sounds heard at Cherry Tree and at Hengistbury.  The unique and unusual soundscape maps they created will be on display at the Hengistbury Head Visitor Centre in November 2016.

While doing this, volunteers became very interested in the sounds made by plants and trees, especially those involving the wind.  Bamboo are ideal for this.  Cherry Tree Nursery receives many inquiries, especially from schools and rest homes, about setting up sensory gardens, and there are some fascinating connections between sound and memory.  Sounds can be a wonderful way to create a calming environment.  Some plants, such as grasses, create amazing sound and the rustling of leaves is very soothing, as is the buzzing of a bee or the chirping of a grasshopper.

Plants also create sounds we cannot normally hear, for example the sound of water flowing up the stem of the plant, or the distress call put out by a plant which is stressed due to the drought.  Many people talk to plants, and this encourages plants and people to flourish.

A sensory garden should ideally stimulate all the senses.  Scent is an easy starting point, as so many plants have fragrant aromatic flowers, stems and leaves.  Herbs such as lavender and rosemary evoke memories for many people, and thoughts of scents can lead on to those of taste, helping to arouse the taste buds.

Textures are a wonderful aspect of gardening.  Think of the soft furry feel of lamb’s ear (stachys) or cool moss or rough seedpods.  The final sense is that of sight – whether textures, shapes or colours, remember the soothing nature of green.

It is also important to incorporate the sense that plants can provide shade, security, shelter, privacy and quietness. They can also be used to attract wildlife. Just the presence of plants, flowers, water and wildlife has a healing effect. At Cherry Tree we can help you find information on plants for all these purposes.


Visit Cherry Tree Nursery Monday to Friday from 8am – 3.30pm and from 9am to 1pm on Saturdays.  Closed on Sundays throughout the winter.


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