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Introducing Highdown’s New Sensory Garden

Ellen Mascard, Engagement & Volunteering OfficerHello my name is Ellen, I am the Engagement & Volunteering Officer here at Highdown Gardens.

One of Highdown’s most significant developments, made possible by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, has been the Sensory Garden. This space used to occupy the Rose Garden, which had over-mature, weak and diseased roses, as well as worn down and narrow paths inaccessible to wheelchair users and buggies.

An important aim of the redevelopment project was to increase accessibility and encourage a more diverse audience to Highdown, so we decided to utilise this flat area to create a Sensory Garden.

Sensory gardens are designed to stimulate the senses by using plants and features which interact with a person’s hearing, taste, sight, smell and touch. This engagement taps into the practice of mindfulness, which increases a person’s awareness of their surroundings, helping them to connect with nature and relax.

Highdowns sensory garden’s planting scheme was designed by Craft Gardener, Claire Garcka, who chose plants for their different heights, textures, scents and noises when moving in the wind.

As you walk into the space, you will also notice a transition from pastel to much hotter coloured plants. Claire also cleverly underplanted the garden beds with bulbs to extend the season of interest. Highdown’s Sensory Garden also has ample seating, raised plant beds, and solid even ground throughout making the space accessible for all, particularly wheelchair users and visually impaired people.

What plants are currently available to interact with?

The following plants are Senior Gardener, Peter Keefe’s, top picks to interact with this September:

left Chocolate Cosmos (Cosmos atrosanguineus) and right Lambs ears (Stachys byzantina)

(Left) Common name: Chocolate Cosmos
Latin name: Cosmos atrosanguineus
Sense: The flowers smell of chocolate!
Credit: Rebecca Jones

(Right) Common name: Lambs ears
Latin name: Stachys byzantina
Sense: The leaves are soft to touch
Credit: Rebecca Jones

left baby sage x autumn sage (Salvia x jamensis, Nachtvlinder) and right Chinese silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis, Kleine Silberspinne)

(Left) Common name: baby sage x autumn sage
Latin name: Salvia x jamensis ‘Nachtvlinder’
Sense: Look at its vibrant purple flowers
Credit: Ellen Mascard

(Right) Common name: Chinese silver grass
Latin name: Miscanthus sinensis ‘Kleine Silberspinne’
Sense: Listen to the grass rustle in the wind
Credit: Ellen Mascard

So, they’re Peter’s top picks – have you got any favourites?

Views of the Sensory Garden:

Sensory Garden at Highdown Gardens (raised planting beds)

Sensory Garden at Highdown Gardens (raised planting beds and pergola)

Sensory Garden at Highdown Gardens (new bench)