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Plan Your New Garden Off-Season —— A Stimulating Garden for Children

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Dear Casual Gardener,

I have been so inspired by your column! I have decided I am going to create a garden in the Spring for my mentally handicapped son. He is eight years old and really enjoys bright colors and a stimulating environment. Can you give me some help and advice in creating a garden for him?


Needs Help in Naperville

Kiddo in garden

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Dear Needs Help,

I have some fantastic ideas for you and anyone else who would like to create a stimulating children’s garden.

Children love to touch, smell and see exciting gardens! Have your son help plant the plants! Digging in the dirt is one of the favorite activities for my little girl. Even if her attention wanders, she will be pulled back in if I find a worm or other tiny creature in the soil to share with her. She loves to help me plant, then monitors the plants she’s taken care of very carefully all through the summer. They are HER “babies” after all.

One of my favorite gardens of all time is the “Sensory Garden” at the Chicago Botanical Gardens. To learn more about the Sensory Garden, please go to I would use their garden as a model to get started – it is filled with bright colors and touchable plants in raised beds to bring them closer to your nose and within reach to touch. The whole concept is to smell, hear, see, and feel the garden.

stimulating garden

There are many varieties of plants that can contribute to a stimulating garden:

Grasses of all varieties wave in the wind and sound delightful in the summer breeze;

Bright annuals add exciting color and pattern to the garden;

stimulating garden

Lamb’s Ear, Strawflower, Hen & Chicks and Coneflower are fun to touch;

For interesting scent, add plants like Catmint, Scented Geranium and low-maintenance roses.

Stimulating color combinations are also a plus for this style of gardening. My favorite color combination is purple and yellow. Additional exciting color combinations include Hot Pink and White, Salmon and Violet, or Orange and Red.

Good Luck with your garden plan! I hope it brings you and the community a lot of joy!!

Shawna Coronado says Get Healthy! Get Green! Get Community!

Winter Garden View, or “Patience is Torture”

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  1. I love your suggestion of getting the kids involved!

    I often have the little neighbourhood kids “helping” me in my garden. They especially appreciate being able to eat their hard work!

  2. I raised a disabled son by gardening in the back yard while he was outside. Plants w/scent and w/textures like those suggested lamb's ears are great for kids w/sensory issues, so are plants that can tell stories like the suggested Hens & Chicks. Some kids don't like to get their hands dirty so recyle the wading pool water and let them water the plants when you're done with it & never expect perfection! Enjoy. Thanks Shawna for exploring this topic.

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