Today we are happy to share another guest blogger, our very own designer Robin! She is sharing some of her latest gardening research with us. Happy reading:
Everyday of my life nature has inspired me. As a sleepy tot, leaves served as a mobile for me while my mother did outside chores, wild daisy and black eyed susans later taught me how to braid and chain halos. I was free to move about in the garden at my own speed, free to indulge all my senses. Working the Earth steadily all these years completes me and offers physical and mental workouts. Lately that freedom of movement and opportunity has taken on a new meaning.
Recently a family friend, who shares my passion for plant hoarding and appreciation for garden design, has become physically incapacitated. She will not heal from her disease and in her early 50’s a wheelchair will now be her only means of mobility. Along with my suffocating empathy for her situation, I have found a panic button in myself. One that triggered the fear that at any moment of one’s life, their physical status may change for the worse. Whether by disease, accident or aging, it is life altering and something I personally would struggle with to the extreme. So at the root of my fear is ” how will I garden???!!”
I have started researching handicap accessible gardens in hopes to be reassured that there would still be opportunities for my gardening brothers and sisters (and someday possibly myself) that may need a little help in completing their garden or landscape visions. I was slightly annoyed that there were so few options. Most photos were of wheel chair accessible gardens to visit in larger cities. That may be nice for an afternoon visit or a bit of inspiration, but a real gardener needs to get their hands dirty. (Need, not want!) There were a couple different architectural samples for the homeowner. Mostly wood raised beds that are the correct height for a wheelchair to glide next to. The thought is nice, but weeding can sometimes become a contortionist art. Pulling or planting while facing the wrong direction is not efficient or comfortable. Leverage and gravity are mandatory. So I dug deeper for more information. Finally I came across proper raised beds where a wheelchair could pull right up to the planting beds that fit like a table over the lap. There was a glimmer of hope! The outside of some of the raised beds were even nicely covered in field stone for a much more natural feel. There were large gardens of brick or stone that had small coves built in for a very accessible and natural flow and beautiful paths that to the untrained eye would appear to be like any other inviting garden walkway. On closer inspection the paths are flanked with woody plants, shrubs and trees that need pruning and shaping at a 3′ to 4′ foot level. Maintenance after initial plantings was thought out professionally.
There are lifelong gardeners and beginners but the common thread is that once you connect to the soil and plants it’s difficult, if not impossible, to pull yourself away. Blisters, cuts and pulled muscles are just the ignorable side effects of a beautiful personal garden oasis that brims with your own pride and creativity. No matter the physical limitations, We will always find a way to keep up the work.
So I will now keep my eyes (and mind) open a bit further in finding creative and well engineered planting beds that everyone can use. I would love to see more community gardens offer accessible gardens for everyone and to see more selection and inspiration of raised beds and greenhouses.