Our sensory garden plan is finished! Most who follow along with the blog know that it has been Mary’s dream as an Occupational Therapist to create a space at the farm to help those with special needs find comfort, learn, explore and grow. With a finished plan – the dream is now one step closer. We have approached it as we have with every other project on the farm – using reclaimed resources throughout the design - including old windows and bricks that will become part of a new covered garden house pergola as the centerpiece.
The garden will sit at the top of the hill, overlooking the farm below. To the casual visitor, it will look like a typical space filled with herbs, flowering plants, a water feature and garden house. And for many days, it will be just that – a place for us to enjoy, take a walk, or have a quiet evening dinner underneath the garden house pergola.
But for Mary and others who will use the space – it will also become a place to help those with special needs by appealing to all of their senses – especially those of smell, vision, touch, and hearing.
Sensory gardens are places designed to help those with special needs to relax and enjoy themselves by stimulating their senses in a comfortable and safe way. Their different way of learning sometimes can become difficult in typical environments. The sensory garden can incorporate what is taught in the classroom and apply it in a natural outside environment.
We designed the garden in the shape of one of the most widely recognized symbols for autism – the puzzle piece. The main 6′ brick pathway extends straight through the center of the puzzle piece, with a large 20 x 10′ pergola and garden house structure that will anchor the center area. It will have a gabled metal roof, with four reclaimed windows used to create an open-style covered structure. Benches on each corner will provide a shady quiet place to relax, rest, and take in the environment – with a reclaimed 10′ barn table directly in the center.
As you walk under the arbored entrance – there will be vibrant, colorful plantings. Flowering bulbs, sunflowers, marigolds, petunias, ornamental peppers, swiss chard and chocolate ruffles will be among the many plants that give an explosion of color for the eyes.
From the main walkway, there will be six paths leading to different areas for the senses. To the right, an area for sound and hearing – filled with bamboo and bamboo wind chimes, along with rustling plantings of grasses, popcorn stalks and more. To the left, an area for smell and taste – filled with an assortment of fragrant, tasty plants and herbs such as chives, mints, dill, rosemary, basil, strawberries and blueberries among others.
From the main garden house – two more paths will extend to the open areas of the puzzle piece. To the left will be a big water pond feature full of sounds and sights. To the right, a platform therapy swing installed on a pergola frame, located underneath the shaded canopy of an existing large oak.
Finally, at the back, there will be two sensory learning areas dedicated to touch. On one side a covered potting shed that will be used to learn about the feel of soil, sand and plants. Allowing children to plant their own seeds to take back with them. The other side will be home to a covered and elevated sand box area that allows children to work and play with sand, marbles and other materials of different textures and shapes.
Over time, the entire garden area in between the “designated” areas will be filled in with hundreds of plants that can stimulate all of the senses. Colorful annuals and perennials like curry, lavender, Jerusalem and silver sage, lambs ear and hens and chicks to name just a few. It will be full of plantings that celebrates the senses and seasons.
Completing The Project:
March will mark the start of the first phase of the process – laying out the bed space, seeding the grassy areas around, and installing the crushed limestone base for the walkways. It will take a little time, but over the next 6 months, we hope to complete the remaining 5 phases :
Phase 2 (April) Transplanting – using all the available plants we have secured and saved and installing them in the given areas.
Phase 3 (May) Planting remainder of annuals and perennials
Phase 4 (June) Installing reclaimed brick paver center walkway
Phase 5 (July) Installing the water feature
Phase 6 (August) Installing the Pergola, Potting Shed area and Swing area
Hopefully, by mid summer, a lifelong dream for Mary will come to fruition with the completion of the garden! We will post updates and pictures along the way.
Have a great Sunday everyone!
Jim and Mary