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Posts Tagged ‘Guelph Enabling Garden’

We’re back from our summer break and Monday evening I presented project #8 in the Competent Communicator manual – Getting Comfortable With Visual Aids. I selected a subject that would be enriched by a PowerPoint presentation. Here’s the speech without the PP visuals.

The Enabling Garden

It started with a dream. An accessible garden. A garden for people with physical and cognitive challenges. A garden for children and the elderly. A garden for all to enjoy. The dream inspired a community. The city donated parkland and a landscape architect designed it. Volunteers turned it into a physical reality. A horticultural therapist offers active programming and storytellers entertain while visitors sip tea. … This is the Guelph Enabling Garden.

Mr. Toastmaster, fellow members, and welcomed guests, this garden stimulated my heart, mind and senses. I volunteered here in 2010 and this evening I want to share its beauty and purpose with you. The seed was planted in 1999 when it was recognized that there were no public gardens in the city that people with physical and cognitive challenges could access and use.  Five years later, in 2004, it came into bloom. Michael Pollan wrote, “A garden should make you feel you’ve entered privileged space … the gardener must put some kind of twist on the existing landscape, turn its prose into something nearer poetry.” The Guelph Enabling Garden has achieved this and more.

There are four key features to an “enabling” garden. It should be accessible, entice the senses, provide reflective areas, and offer hands-on programming. As you can see, the garden path is wide enough for two wheelchairs to comfortably pass by. It contains a wide variety of trees, shrubs, ornamental grasses, herbs and flowering plants and each section has a theme. Benches are located throughout and provide people with a place to sit and think. The section of the garden reserved for active programming contains two standing beds, five raised beds, and several ground beds. Adaptive tools reduce a person’s energy exertion and help keep the body in proper alignment.

Now, if you’re a gardener you already know there’s a therapeutic element to gardening. The Canadian Horticulture Therapy Association defines horticultural therapy as, “the use of plants and the natural world to improve the social, spiritual, physical and emotional wellbeing of individuals who participate in it.” How are these benefits manifested? Participants meet new people and improve teamwork and relationship skills. People connect with nature, the community and life. It impacts others in the broader community. It fosters awareness of natural forces and rhythms, and of interdependence. Gardening is a meaningful and purposeful activity. It’s real and it motivates and inspires. It increases strength and range of motion, makes use of fine and gross motor skills and eye/hand coordination. It enhances self-esteem and creative expression. It provides inner peace. People of all ages and abilities can benefit from HT.

The mural you see in the slide graces the side of the garden shed. People, art, nature and utility comfortably coexist here. It seems to me that a garden is a buffer zone between the urban and the wild. A sanctuary. I felt closely connected to nature while volunteering at the Enabling Garden. You can sense the connection in this child. You experience it passively, too, just by being there. One day, I was chatting with a senior from Fergus, a nearby town, and he told me he visits every week because his dog loves being here. Another visitor, a young boy, approached the garden’s spiral and exclaimed, “Mommy, it’s a plant paradise!” The sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson hypothesized that humans have an innate emotional response to nature and all living things. He called this biophilia.

I encourage you to spend time in nature, whether hiking in the woods, strolling along a tree-lined path, visiting a public garden, or puttering in your own yard with raised beds and special tools, if needed. It’s healing and restorative. The echinaceas in this slide are located in the woodland section. It was my favourite part of the garden. Their beauty stirred me and I felt aware and at peace. The Enabling Garden is a gift for its many visitors, program participants and volunteers. An accessible garden where prose has become poetry. “How fair is a garden amid the trials and passions of existence.”  (Benjamin Disraeli) … Mr. Toastmaster.

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“Mommy, it’s a plant paradise!” That’s the comment Wendy, the volunteer coordinator, overheard a young boy make on Saturday morning. And, well, it is true. The Enabling Garden at Riverside Park is an intriguing and special place for young and old.

For me, the garden is a way to indulge in an artistic appreciation of beauty and design.  It satisfies my passion for movement and the outdoors. And there’s more – it stimulates my curiosity by providing a venue for getting up close to nature and observing its lifecycle changes.

The garden is a visual symphony. Plants grow, flower, entice bees to pollinate, whither, go to seed and become dormant while other specimens come into bloom amid the fruit- and nut-bearing trees and shrubs and the butterflies flitter and rest. By nature and design the garden is in constant flux.

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Today I did my first volunteer shift at the Guelph Enabling Garden.

It’s a public garden in Riverside Park that also offers horticultural therapy programs and workshops. It’s in a lovely setting by the Speed River and is appreciated by seniors, people recovering from illness and just about anyone who happens to stroll through. It is now in its sixth season.

Part of the garden is for the use of community groups, so that people who might otherwise have difficulty gardening are able to do so in the raised beds. Guelph is more or less the birthplace of Canadian horticultural therapy.

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