Friday, October 23, 2009

"Universal" Gardening: The Enabling Garden at the Botanic Gardens

This photo is of Dear Son, a teacher from the other classroom, and his aides at the Botanic Garden.

Universal gardening, or accessible gardening, is something that makes gardening easier for everyone. This week, Dear Son's class went to the Botanic Gardens to visit the "Enabling Garden". The hands-on teaching garden was created to showcase ways people of all different ages and abilities can garden. It includes vertical gardens, sensory plants and smooth brick pathways making it easier for people in wheelchairs. The "Enabling Garden" featured many adaptive tools and models to illustrate gardening techniques that make gardening easier and more enjoyable. These features include:
  • Raised Beds
  • Hanging Baskets
  • Walled Gardens
  • Shallow Pans
  • Raised Water Features
  • Scenic Overlook
  • Discovery Cart
  • Tool Shed
  • Smooth Brick Pathways
What I especially enjoyed about the enabling garden is that these features aren't limited to people who are disabled; these features can be enjoyed by everyone. As a result, I prefer to call it "universal" gardening to highlight the fact that these features are good for everyone. Universal Design is a term to describe designs that are accessible for everyone. I'd like to think that "universal" gardening would be the same. So what exactly makes this garden accessible or universal?
One of the teachers is trying to push Dear Son up the hill at the Botanic Garden and is having a hard time which makes Dear Son laugh.

Colorful, dramatic, raised garden beds are one of the highlights of this garden. As any true gardener will tell you, back aches or aches in general are easy to come by when you garden. Long stretches of kneeling and bending can be challenging and increase in difficulty as you get older. Raised beds solve this issue so you don't have to bend down as much. When I had a home a few year back, gardening was my main hobby. I would easily spend eight hours or so putzing around in the yard doing everything from planting, edging, mulching, turning the mulch, pruning, weeding and just about anything else I could think of. I'd used those garden kneezies (a foam pad that you lie on the ground to cushion your knees when kneeling to garden) to make it easier. I absolutely loved it. By the end of the day however, you have had a workout and I can see how the raised garden bed would make that easier.

This photo is of my former home where I loved to garden.

Hanging Baskets-At the enabling garden, they showcase hanging baskets that raise and lower on a pulley type chain. This allows the user to raise and lower the hanging basket for watering.

Walled Garden-A walled garden is used to illustrate the concept of vertical gardening. Vertical gardening brings your plants and flowers up to eye level or off the ground making maintenance easier.

Shallow Pans-Shallow pans are raised beds that aren't very deep or wide. The depth allow you to get a wheelchair closer to the bed and the fact that they aren't as wide allows a person in a wheelchair to water all of the plants without having to lean over very far.

Raised Water Features-Keeps the water features at eye level making them easier to see for disabled individuals as opposed to water features on the ground. I can see this feature making it easier for people with a "vertical gaze palsy". Dear Son has difficulty looking up and seeing things that aren't straight out in front of him.

Scenic Overlook-Allows the user to look out over the garden.

Discovery Cart-This feature at the garden allows wheelchair users to pull up to a special cart to explore gardening tools.

Tool Shed-Filled with accessible tools to make gardening easier.

Smooth Brick Pathways-Having a smooth brick pathway is essential for people in wheelchairs. When Dear Son was a child, we had a wooden swing set in the backyard and it was very difficult trying to push the wheelchair over the grass to get there. When the ground was slightly wet, it was even more difficult. A brick pathway would not only make it easier but would look beautiful too. While I didn't visit the enabling garden, I would imagine that the brick pathways would need to be at least three feet wide, which is a standard width for pathways and sidewalks. This would allow adequate room to push a wheelchair. As always, a five foot wide area would be required for turn arounds or to turn the wheelchair around. A pretty brick circle design would be a wonderful visual element in a garden.

Dear Son had a fabulous time. He really enjoys plants at school and I am always amazed at how much kids with disabilities notice the scent of a plant. At school, they do a lot with plants. They take the kids out into the community (Home Depot) to purchase plants, soil and pots. At school, they decorate the flower pots then plant the plants. The plants are then distributed to teachers in the building. The kids are assigned plants to water in the building. Two days a week they water the plants to help them grow. Watering the plants help them with their occupational therapy. Dear Son has a special water bottle (think sports bottle with a flexible spout) that he uses. The therapist puts the water bottle in his hand and has one hand over Dear Son's hand on the water bottle and the other hand on his left arm (Dear Son is left handed.). When the therapist feels a slight movement in his fingers, she helps squeeze the bottle to help him water the plant. This helps Dear Son since she gives his brain time to relay the message to his fingers to move them and this is a higher concept or a little higher functioning than just putting her hand over his and helping him squeeze the bottle. Dear Son also enjoys reading books about plants on the computer at school. He has a switch set up so he can take his head and hit the switch to turn the pages, so to speak, on the computer. He really enjoys it. Yesterday, they purchased some lemon grass at the store and he enjoyed smelling it. It's nice how they use many of their senses in learning about plants. One of Dear Son's favorite things however is when they put dirt on his tray and he gets to put his hands in it. That's how you know he is a real gardener!


Mary said...

I love this post...the garden looks a wonderful place to spend a day, or even two days, to get in touch with nature. And I like the way you described it with words as well...I don't think we have anything quite so lovely here in our community. What I love most, though, is the smile on Dear Son's face...he is laughing and having a great time.. As a mom, I know that seeing your child happy is the best thing in the world. He is adorable, Sue, and I'm so glad he has these wonderful opportunities to enjoy the gifts of God, and so grateful for the people that dedicate their lives to helping others.

God bless you, my friend!


sarah { abeachcottage } said...

oh wow that garden looks wonderful, Dear Son looks like he is really enjoying...I am blown away by nature and the therapy there for us right out in the yard...

thanks for popping by my blog :-) I'm with you on the Dutch Oven story full of its seasonings! I would sure like to inherit one too, funny it's been on my thrifting Most Wanted List for a long day I'm sure it'll come up, the other day I got a Scanpan $350 casserole for $7, so that was good

happy weekend


Anonymous said...

I was on the set of desperate housewives over the summer, and I swear to you your house looks even more perfect. They have a zillion people doing upkeep! Wow.

Chany said...

Tu eres un encanto de mother, madre, de mamá, de mami, eres un ángel del Señor, por eso Dios te puso otro ángel en tu vida, te quiero amiga cuidate y recibe mi cariño desde argentina, Chany.-

flower pots said...

The article is very good.

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