Most of my past messages have addressed activities and events within the gardens, largely after the fact. In this quarterly newsletter, I will draw your attention to a very severe deficit in our programming that we hope to correct. Currently, the therapeutic horticulture program at Wilmot Gardens is devoid of a permanent outdoor venue for gardening classes. Absence of instruction in outdoor gardening is viewed as a major deficiency in our current offerings because we are not able to instruct our participants on how to grow many popular and useful plants to maturity such as tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, and other edibles. This lessens the appeal of gardening for many. Ideally, a total gardening experience involves propagating starter plants indoors from seeds or cuttings, then transplanting, nurturing, and harvesting those plants in an outdoor garden. With the appropriate environment for this total gardening experience, we can instruct participants in all phases of the growth cycle, thereby increasing the chances that those with available space can garden successfully at home.
The creation of an outdoor gardening venue will also importantly facilitate the expansion of our current therapeutic horticulture program. At present, our indoor program can comfortably serve on average approximately 65 participants each week. The addition of an outdoor venue would effectively triple our capacity and enhance the opportunity to serve additional groups of individuals who could benefit from involvement in a structured therapeutic gardening program.
As depicted on the accompanying illustration (click image to enlarge), we envision a working garden with espaliers, vertical wall planters, trellises, raised and at-grade planters, and wheelchair accessible planters to facilitate hands-on involvement in the out of doors. This plan includes shelters from both rain and sun, and a centrally located water source for drinking and gardening activities. The incorporation of extra wide sidewalks to accommodate wheelchairs, walkers, and other mobility devices will ensure 100% accessibility for our participants, a guiding principle for all facilities in the Wilmot Gardens. The estimated cost of this 6,000 sq. ft. garden is $200,000 including $25,000 in architect’s fees. At present, we have obtained $50,000 in gifts for the outdoor garden. Our fundraising for this project is ongoing.
C. Craig Tisher, M.D., Director, Wilmot Gardens