One of the elements to consider when planning your garden spaces is the texture of the plants. I especially love to include plants that are fun to touch in gardens near my front door, back patio, or other high-traffic areas. Here are some of my favorite edible plants perfect for a sensory or children’s garden. Many of these are explored in-depth in Gardening Like a Ninja: A Guide to Sneaking Delicious Edibles Into Your Landscape.
1. Sage – Broader, textured leaves make sage a lovely addition to the edible landscape. It grows as a woody perennial and the texture alone would be enough to make it worth adding to the landscape. But sage is available in a variety of colors – tri-color with burgundy streaks and splotches and a variegated green and white form are two of my favorites. It’s one of the easiest herbs to grow so you have to try it in your garden.
2. Lemon Grass – I love lemongrass in the garden and while it’s technically a perennial plant, it is frost sensitive so I grow it as an annual. The grass-like foliage is delightfully fragrant and easy to add to stir-fry dishes, sun tea mixtures, or anywhere you want a burst of citrus flavors.
3. Basil – Basil is a sun-loving herb I usually grow as an annual plant in containers. There are so many varieties with different foliage shapes you can choose broad or fine cut as you wish. Greek basil is awesome for a sensory garden because of the small, boxwood-like leaves. Other basils have large, burgundy or purple foliage that is perfect for rubbing between your fingers.
4. Parsley or Cilantro– Think about how we use these herbs on the plate – as garnishes to add interest and beauty to the meal. They do the same thing in the garden! The curly, fine-cut, and textured leaves make all the other plants look more beautiful. Both are soft to the touch, fragrant, and lovely in the garden.
5. Rosemary – This herb is a rockstar in the edible landscape. It’s semi-evergreen for year-round color in many areas, and deliciously fragrant. It’s pine-like needles are a favorite for children to play with and the plant is more than hardy enough to tolerate some mangling from children’s hands. It is, without a doubt, considered one of my favorite must-grow herbs for any garden landscape.
6. Lavender – One of my favorite perennial herbs, lavender is a lovely addition to a garden. It’s textured, fragrant foliage invites you to touch. It’s gray and fuzzy and pleasing to the touch. But more than that, the plant itself is drought tolerant and easy to maintain. The summer flowers are typically purple, but white and pink varieties are available as well. See 6 Scent-Sational DIYs you can do with your lavender!
7. Chives – Chives are another herb that doesn’t have a sweet or floral fragrance, but the fine grass-like foliage is pleasing to the touch. My kids love picking the chive flowers and making chains out of them as well. To me it’s an easy plant to add to a sensory garden and can make a lovely border or edging plant.
8. Swiss Chard – While it’s not a fragrant plant, Swiss chard has large, colorful, broad leaves that are a delight. The bright colors attract attention, and the oversized leaves are fun to touch. It will provide a harvest for several weeks if you harvest the outside leaves and let the smaller leaves in the middle grow. Bonus! They are fast-growing greens to add quick color to the garden.
9. Kale– Kale is a leafy green with highly textured leaves. They are bumpy, called savoyed, or ruffled and often available in pretty colors as well. I like to use the deep greens to set off other plants in the garden, but look for varieties with red veins, variegated foliage, and other color interests as well as the fun texture. Plus it is a delicious and healthy snack
10.Dill – A favorite herb for growing near the kitchen door, dill has such delicate, fine-cut looking foliage it’s easy to underestimate the size of the plant. Full-grown dill grows over three feet tall. The light foliage though is soft to the touch. It is also fragrant, although not in a floral way like some of the other plants we’ve mentioned. Dill also attracts butterflies, another plus for a children’s garden.
When you are selecting plants for your garden landscapes, think beyond the traditional flowering plants. There are so many benefits from the myriad of textures and fragrances that foliage can offer you if you select the right plants for the job. For more help creating a gorgeous, multi-dimensional edible landscape, check out the Gardening Like a Ninja book and eCourse, 12 lessons with step-by-step details to help you plan a professional landscape design with no expensive software. An extra bonus garden design is included!