Bernheim Forest opens Sensory Garden

By bernheim

CLERMONT, Ky (June 16, 2022) – Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest is excited to announce the opening of its new Sensory Garden, a welcoming space for those of all abilities. The Sensory Garden is expertly designed to allow all our guests to enjoy nature in a way that works for each individual.

“The spirit that guided Bernheim’s team in creating the Sensory Garden is closely aligned with Bernheim’s mission of connecting people with nature, which includes an obligation to provide diversity, inclusion, and accessibility for all species – plant, animal, and human,” said Dr. Mark K. Wourms, executive director of Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest. “No matter our ability level, we all connect with nature through our senses, and we are unwavering in our dedication to furthering our founder’s vision of a place that everyone can experience.”

This new garden is a revitalization of an existing beautiful space of stone beds near the Education Center and the Silos. Although the garden is located at Bernheim, the realization of the Sensory Garden is the product of many throughout the wider community – particularly those who live with Autism Spectrum Disorder or blindness and visual impairment — and their families, caregivers, and teachers.

Over the course of the garden’s design and realization, the team hosted many visits from the communities of Families for Effective Autism Treatment, Dreams with Wings, Arts for All, and the Kentucky School for the Blind Charitable Foundation, which also provided some of the project’s funding along with the Crusade for Children and Kosair Charities. Their thoughtful insights helped shape the garden’s overall design, signage, special features, navigability and many other aspects.

“The sensory garden makes a difference in the quality of life for people who are blind or visually impaired by enchanting and engaging the senses,” said Michele Brown, Executive Director, Kentucky School for the Blind Charitable Foundation. “It opens nature to all.”

Heather Sauer, Teen & Young Adult Program Director with Dreams with Wings said they are grateful for the partnership with Bernheim Forest.

“Their invitation to be a part of the planning and execution of the Sensory Garden and accompanying art installation underscores their incredible commitment to making the beauty of nature accessible and inclusive,” Sauer said. “We look forward to spending time enjoying the garden and all that Bernheim has to offer its visitors.”

Features of the Sensory Garden

  • Interpretive signage including pictograph and Braille components to describe each sensory landscape bed, the quiet space, and overall purpose of the space: Tree identification signs with Braille can be found in the picnic area adjacent to the Smell and Quiet spaces.
  • Plants with tactile qualities in the Touch space: Some recognizable common names represented are lamb’s ear, coneflower, sensitive fern, hops, and variegated yucca. Other tactile elements include smooth driftwood from the Falls of the Ohio, bumpy and rough-textured planter pots, and many upcycled components yet to be installed.
  • Quiet Space: In speaking with our partners, we learned that the infinity symbol was the original Autism symbol. We repurposed two millstones that we found on site and used those as individual seats. We planted Taxus cuspidata ‘Columnaris,’ commonly known as Adam’s columnar yew, in the shape of an infinity symbol, leaving two openings on opposite sides of the symbol so those who need a quiet space can enter, have a seat, and be soothed while surrounded by nature.
  • Sound features:  A decorative water feature provides a summer water source for birds and small mammals. The Hearing space will focus on water, but the entire garden sings the song of nature, including insects buzzing, leaves rustling, melodies of wind chimes, and children’s laughter.
  • Seating with meaning:  The Buddy Benches are the dream of a local Cub Scout who wants those who have been bullied or are perceived as “different” to have a safe place to take a break from those negative feelings.




About Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest

Bernheim’s mission is to connect people with nature. Bernheim is the largest privately held contiguous forest block in the eastern United States dedicated to conservation and education. Bourbon maker Isaac Wolfe Bernheim established the arboretum and forest in 1929 as a gift to the people of Kentucky. A recent land acquisition brought the total acreage of land that Bernheim protects to 16,140. Fun, educational programs, diverse tree collections, 40 miles of hiking trails and varied landscapes are available every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. A $10 per car donation is suggested for non-members.

Bernheim is in Clermont, Ky., about 20 minutes south of the Louisville airport. From I-65 take exit 112 and follow the signs. Bernheim is a non-profit organization that relies on memberships, grants and donations for support. Come visit and enjoy the beauty of nature. For more information, please visit


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