A special sensory garden has been created to demonstrate to schools how outdoor spaces can be utilised and made more accessible to disabled children.
The garden was unveiled at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival to celebrate the government’s Year of Green Action.
Created together with young people with disabilities and the Sensory Trust, the garden aims to take visitors of all abilities on a journey through the senses, with plants specially chosen for their multi-sensory qualities.
Scent, touch and taste are all appealed to with the furry leaves of woolly thyme, while the velvety leaves of senecio ‘angel wings’ are for children to touch and feel. The garden is decorated with ceramic tiles designed by children with disabilities and their families.
The Year of Green Action garden will also ask visitors to pledge to help improve the environment so we become the first generation to leave it in a better state than we found it – a key objective of government’s 25 Year Environment Plan.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “The Year of Green Action garden is a demonstration of the role gardens and other outdoor spaces can play in sparking joy for nature in all children.
“Now more than ever it is vital that we ensure that the next generation is engaged with the environment, not only for their own health and well-being, but for the health and well-being of the natural world itself.”
Helen Rosevear, co-designer of the Year of Green Action Garden, said: “Family gardens give children one of their first opportunities to connect with nature, and the Year of Green Action garden shows how we can all create spaces for everyone to enjoy while being mindful of how they can benefit wildlife and the environment.
“Family gardens, schools and other organisations can create features such as dens, sensory domes and bug hotels, but on a smaller scale we can all choose plants that have a multi-sensory appeal as well as being attractive to wildlife.
Visually, the garden moves from mixed, stimulating colours of sunflowers and sweet peas on the patio and pollinator area to more calming blues and purples of lavender. The paths and surfaces created from recycled shredded rubber to create a firm but forgiving surface for children.
There is a sensory dome to provide a quiet reflective space, especially valuable for children with additional needs, while a covered craft area provides a space for the whole family to engage in nature based activities and play.
The garden is also environmentally friendly with integrated water storage and composting, plants that have been specially chosen for both their low water demand in order to reduce water use and their attractiveness to pollinators, and permeable paving to allow water to percolate and prevent flooding.
Claire Francis from the Sensory Trust said: “We are delighted to be co-designing this Year of Green Action garden and hope that it inspires many people to use our simple, low-cost techniques to create deeper, lasting connections with nature in their own garden.”
Image credit: Sensory Trust