When Elizabeth started working in Veronica’s home, she wanted to find an activity that would be fun for everyone, including herself. Veronica is deaf and blind. That makes fully participating in some activities challenging.
During her research, Elizabeth found several ideas, some of which made her chuckle. Skiing, for example, did not make it to the top of her list.
But a sensory garden fit Veronica’s needs and was definitely achievable. Interacting with a sensory garden stimulates the senses of smell, touch, and taste. It can be both engaging and therapeutic.
Elizabeth visited CMSE Giving Gardens, a local nursery that provides meaningful work to people with disabilities. They advised her about plants that are safe to eat, fragrant or have pleasant textures. Elizabeth also visited Strawberry Hill Farms for more expert advice and materials.
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Planting the garden was an easy way to involve Veronica’s roommates. Tammy felt nostalgic about gardening because her parents gardened when she was younger. “She helped a lot until she realized she was getting dirty,” Elizabeth said with a smile.
Elizabeth wanted the garden to be pleasing to the senses and interactive. So she planted vegetables, fruits, and herbs. She started growing delicious cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, and watermelons along with aromatic herbs like chocolate mint and parsley. Next came fuzzy lamb’s ear and soft dusty miller for their satisfying touch. She planted fragrant flowers for their sweet perfume.
Not only did the garden provide a fun activity for everyone, but fresh produce that made it more convenient to eat healthy foods.
When it was time to harvest, Veronica ate the tomatoes right in the garden.
“Veronica was most excited about anything she could eat. The cherry tomatoes are her favorite!”
The seasons have changed and the days are getting shorter. The garden is starting to dry up. There are fewer tomatoes on the vine every day. But the garden isn’t gone yet. Several large pumpkins are ready to be painted for Halloween. The herbs are still growing. (Elizabeth plans to dry them and use them through the winter.)
“I have plans to expand it next year,” says Elizabeth. “I learned so much…this year, so I know how to improve it for next spring.”
Elizabeth consulted with Veronica’s occupational therapist. She suggested augmenting the garden with seating that adds movement (a porch swing, for example) and a tabletop fountain. Those interactive elements will add more dimension to the garden.
Elizabeth picked up a large watermelon and started walking toward the house. “The ladies have been waiting to dig into this one for a long time.” The smooth, fresh-smelling rind, the hard seeds, the crunchy fruit, and the sweet juice all came together to provide a mouthwatering multi-sensory bonanza.