Posts Tagged ‘Horticultural Therapy’

Part II: Plant Adventures Plans for an Exciting Future

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

As we count down to the ribbon cutting for the Arrington Plant Adventure Zone in April, Plant Adventures Coordinator Jennifer Sanders offers the second installment in an occasional series.

More than once lately, I’ve been caught walking around the Library at Birmingham Botanical Gardens without my boots on. It’s earned me a raised eyebrow from one or two of the circulation desk volunteers. “Aren’t you missing something?” asked one ever-vigilant, ever-diligent soul. And senior librarian Elizabeth Drewery once had a compliment for me. “What lovely socks,” she said (compliments sound even better with an English accent).

The boots in question were parked outside, a few feet from where my office is tucked just inside the library’s back door. I’ve learned to wear the boots every day — after the first time I retrieved something from my supply closet in the construction zone (a.k.a the Arrington Plant Adventure Zone) and came back up to my ankles in red mud. Occasionally, I’ve had to shed them at the door to avoid decorating the library carpet with muddy footprints.

It’s been worth it though. For I’ve had the privilege to watch how the workers have taken a mud pit and created an incredible garden. While they’ve been laying drainage pipes and pouring cement and gingerly transporting trees and shrubs, we’ve undertaken a parallel challenge — building a program consistent with the vision embodied in the new garden.

The concept of universal design governs the construction process in the Arrington Plant Adventure Zone. It’s the notion that you can create a space that works for everybody. The most oft-cited example is curb cuts in sidewalks. The same curb cut that works for a person using a wheelchair or a rolling walker also works for the parent pushing a stroller, the airport-bound executive pulling a wheeled suitcase, or the child riding a bicycle.

The Arrington Plant Adventure Zone will be the first (but not the last) space at The Gardens built according to the principles of universal design. With Plant Adventures, we aim to put those principles in practice in our programs as well. We want everyone to find a place to participate.

Part I: Plant Adventures Prepares for an Exciting Future

Friday, February 24th, 2012

The Gardens eagerly anticipates the opening of the Arrington Plant Adventure Zone in late April. Today our Plant Adventures Coordinator, Jennifer Sanders, begins a series of posts on the vision for the future of the space and its programs.

People sure do love their plants.

The voice came from halfway down a hill covered in woody shrubs and rain-slicked leaves: “I’ve got to have a dogwood.” My first question was “Ma’am?” because I hadn’t known she was there. My second was “Are you okay?”

We were at the New Georgia Landfill for the city of Birmingham’s annual native plant dig. It was a damp and dreary Saturday afternoon earlier in February and we had meandered far down the road to see what we might find. As my eleven-year old dug up a respectable specimen of Vaccinium arboreum (Farkleberry), I wandered a few steps away. I first heard and then spotted the source of the voice, a woman wearing a red shirt, a yellow raincoat, and a considerable layer of mud. Her name, we learned, was Donna.

She was easy to miss, clinging as she was to the ground and the down end of an up-ended tree. As my daughter made several trips back up the hill with Donna’s shovel, bags, and recently-dug oak leaf hydrangeas, I stripped away layers of vines, took hold of Donna’s arms, and helped her pull herself out of the tree stump’s clutches and back up to the clearing..

Her first words as we emerged: “I slid down that hill, but I’ve just got to find myself a dogwood.”

As tactfully as possible, I wondered aloud that perhaps, with the rain coming down harder and a few treasures in hand, it might be time to make our way back toward the parking area. Donna spotted the Farkleberry my daughter had worked so hard to dig and, mistaking the combination of tape colors, said “there’s a dogwood.” With a protective maternal eye, I convinced her of its true lineage. A good thing, as I’d hate to have an altercation with a woman I’d just help climb out of a hole.

Undeterred, she headed down another path to continue her search.

Though we may not regularly risk life and limb in their pursuit, those of us who spend time at The Gardens sure do love our plants. Or, as Executive Director Fred Spicer will tell you, plants are not an option in our lives.  As we move forward with Plant Adventures, one goal of our programs is to tell the stories of what our plants mean to us — to all of us and to the world around us. It’s horticulture with culture mixed in. I hope that you will find ways to participate in the activities we are planning — and you’ll be hearing more from us about those in the weeks ahead.