One of the highlights of last season was visiting the Buehler Enabling Garden at The Chicago Botanic Garden near Chicago, Illinois. I went shortly after I was diagnosed with degenerative spinal osteoarthritis and like that the garden is more than just beautiful; it inspires a lot of useful and helpful ideas for people who need assistance with the garden. There is an astounding team of gardeners and experts that have put together a garden for all seasons which is both therapeutic and easy-to-access, thereby making it a lovely solution for gardeners who have arthritis and other health concerns that prevent them from gardening in more traditional way.
An Enabling Garden is An Emotional Connection
Barb Kreski (below) is the Director of Horticultural Therapy Services at the Chicago Botanic Garden, she is at the garden working to help the team educate the public on the emotional connection between gardeners with therapeutic needs and handicaps to gardens and plantings. Barb says, “There is no physical limitation that precludes the access to the power of plants. Creating a healthy plant environment, tending to the needs of an established plant or simply appreciating the profound changes in the life cycle of a plant remind us all that we fit into our environment in our own unique way.”
Types of Enabling Gardens
Accessible gardens at the enabling garden feature raised beds of varying height, container gardens, vertical gardens, sensory plants, and pathways that are easily rolled and walked on. Above you see Barb Kreski sitting on a portable bench in front of one of the raised gardens which enables a gardener to sit along the edge of the garden or bend over when sitting on a stool or in a wheelchair. This style of garden is easy to accomplish in a home garden using wood or brick.
Hanging containers can be difficult for people with arthritis and other health issues to reach. Below you see a sitting area filled with large hanging containers will with begonias and ferns. Barb demonstrated what it looks like when these containers are lowered to eye level. This only takes a few minutes and can easily be done by turning a gentle crank attached on the pole.
Enabling gardens are all about connecting everyone with growing. As I walked through and photographed the garden I noticed that this garden, in particular, had visitors that actively touched and smelled the plants. Raising a garden up closer to a person’s reach means it is possible to have a more intimate experience with a living thing. I, for example, said hello and smelled every flower I came near. Surely raised garden beds such as these are not just for people who need them for reaching reasons. Perhaps everyone should have a little garden they can touch and experience on a personally intimate level.
Enabling Gardens and Living Walls
Below you see several examples of living walls which have been raised up above the ground to eye level to make it easier for a gardener to reach. These are, of course, my favorite since I wrote a book about vertical gardens and living walls called Grow a Living Wall – I love how each of the walls offers unique attributes. The first garden shows New Guinea Impatiens growing in a shady walled area. Below that you see a hidden wall garden which is displayed next to a garden hose site for easy watering. At the bottom you see a living wall enabling garden which is movable should you need to place the garden in more – or less – sun.
Build your own enabling garden utilizing some of the creative ideas from the Chicago Botanic Garden. It is a great way to make growing easier and wellness more obtainable. Definitely start developing your special 2016 at-home garden plan now so that it will help you stay healthy and be active this season.