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Therapeutic horticulture is the use of plants and gardening related activities to enhance an individual’s mental, physical and emotional well-being.

Collaborative Ltd, the lead consultant for the design of MacEwan Terrace Garden, donated their time and exper- tise to help design the enabling garden’s space. What is an enabling garden?

“The garden has been designed for people with a wide

range of needs,” states Jane New, the Riverwood Conser- vancy Enabling Garden coordinator. “It is a hands-on teaching garden that has been made fully accessible for individuals with disabilities.” The garden provides a safe and supportive environment where participants can take part in activities such as seed starting, flower planting, general garden care, harvesting and safe tool use as they navigate their own pathway to recovery and renewal. Jane has been responsible for the plant design of the their plant selection and for the develop-

garden beds,

ment of educational programs for their clients long before the garden opened to the public. The programs she has developed can be adapted for persons of all abilities includ- ing those with: autism, visual and hearing impairments, cognitive, physical and emotional challenges, bereavement, addiction and dementia, not to mention children of all ages and abilities.

How it’s done “Plants are selected based on touch, sight, smell and

sound in order to make the garden accessible for all people with disabilities. For example, colour choice is very impor- tant for those with vision loss. White, yellow and orange are best for creating boundaries as they are easily seen by those with low vision. Purples, blues and greens are harder

to differentiate and are therefore used on trellises where boundaries are clear,” Jane explains. She incorporates both perennials and annuals in the

garden, but admits that despite their cost, they use a lot of annuals. “Annuals are good for learning and we really work them hard,” she says. “Planting is great for motor dexterity, hand-eye coordination and physical involvement in the garden, so it is important to have flowers for our clients to plant.” When Jane says they work them hard, they do. Plants will be planted by one group, dug up and planted again by another so that everyone can take part in this intimate act with the garden. Jane admits that even weeds have been replanted, only to be ripped out again, for clients to practice working the soil. Annuals also play another important role. Unlike peren-

nials, they provide a consistent, brilliant splash of colour all season. This is important because some clients only come once, or suffer from dementia and don’t remember prior visits; it is necessary for the garden to be visually impactful whenever they come. Bringing nature to the people

For clients unable to embark on a peaceful stroll on the

public garden trails, Jane has brought the surrounding forest to them. Dwarf larch or tamarack, ginkgo, cedar and Scott’s pine have been planted for everyone to enjoy. They provide tactile, visual and olfactory experiences. Even large boulders, rocks and fossils have been brought

up to the garden. “If you’re in a wheelchair, it’s rare to be up close to rocks. But rocks are important on so many

Shallow pans allow participants using wheelchairs, walkers or scooters access to the bed without having to twist their body.

Even simple items like rocks add to the tactile experience of the garden. Beautiful Gardens 2015 • 27

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