Bernheim reopens garden to engage the senses

By Amy Joseph Landon

Source: News-Enterprise
By Nacodoches Miller
June. 2022

Bernheim Arboretum & Research Forest has revamped its Sensory Garden to give everyone an equal opportunity to enjoy the outdoors.

The eight-month project used the help of nonprofit groups that work and focus on ensuring those with disabilities are never left out.

“This isn’t just for families affected by autism, you know,” said Monica Cooper, community outreach coordinator for Families for Effective Autism Treatment. “All different types of abilities — I like to say that instead of disabilities — when you see a place like Bernheim do this and it makes other facilities and companies say, ‘You know what, what if we did this?”’

The garden allows individuals with unique learning abilities to become fully immersed through, taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing because of its unique design.

“For example, in smell bed, we used some lavender and sweet shrub and peonies, and Pineapple Lilies,” said Renee Frith, director of horticulture and sustainable landscapes for Bernheim. “For the sight bed, we wanted just extremely vibrant colors, textures so, we use giant coneflower some oakleaf hydrangea, Shasta daisy, some stack east camellia, which gives you that vibrant purple color.”

For tactile sensory learners, the touch bed features flowers with spiky heads and rough tangled textures. For sound, wind chime decorations created by students at the Kentucky School for the Blind hang near a solar-powered fountain that begins to trickle when the sun tops the trees in the morning.

Frith said flowers, which will create sound when the wind passes through them, also are planted in the bed along with species that create a popping sound when matured as well.

“We hope this will not only be a place where everyone feels welcomed and included, but also an inspiration to people who want to design similar spaces themselves,” said Kristin Faurest, Bernhiem’s (sic) director of education.

The revitalized area is another way the Bernheim Arboretum & Research Forest is able to carry on the wishes of Isaac Wolfe Bernheim, founder of the arboretum.

“Everybody can enjoy nature, and this sensory garden is dedicated to that concept,” said Mark Wourms, executive director of the arboretum. “Everybody can benefit from nature, be restored and regenerative in the body, spirit and mind through nature.”

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