Today I thought we might make a start on Landscape gardens with a purpose. There are any number of reasons for starting to develop a landscape, or for that matter to continue with one that has been developing over the years. Sometimes we want to create spaces for particular needs and wishes, these can range from play areas, to formal areas to potagers and topiary etc.,

We can also create gardens for those among us who have, for what ever reason lost or been born without all our senses or are disabled in some other way.

Lets start with one of the  senses…sight.

We designed and built our first Garden for the blind some 22 years ago at the Chelsea Flower Show in London, the idea was to use the other senses of touch and smell to create an interesting area for someone who could not ‘see’ the flowers or structures, but was able to take in the various scents and feel the different textures.

So in addition to be able to hear water, touch stone, brick, wood and plant leaves, you could also smell flower scents, touch and smell aromatic herbs etc.,

It was also possible by using different textures of paving for someone to ‘feel’ their way around the garden and know (with practice) where they were.

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Some years later quite by chance I had the opportunity of taking a partially sighted student on our sailing boat.

It took this  fellow about five minutes to understand where the wind was coming from, and his sense of touch was so good he

was able to adjust the sail trim & thus the boats heeling just from feeling the mainsheet with one hand. His other hand was holding the tiller and the pressure from the rudder told him how easily and thus quickly we were sailing..

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Moving to wheelchairs.

Creating a garden for wheelchair access requires a few sensible initial planning steps. The first is, it is really quite a good idea to have a hard surface on which the wheel chair can travel ( or should I say perambulate, mmm  much more descriptive) around the landscape.

So concrete, asphalt, hard paving in the form of brick or block or slabs all work well. Grass, bark, gravel etc are not very suitable as they tend to make it much harder to move the wheelchair, they also tend to make it dirty.

The next considerations are the width of the path – I’ve always believed paths should be wide enough for two people to walk side by side, it’s much more friendly and inviting to take an afternoon ‘Constitutional’ walk around your garden landscape – it reminds me of the age old tradition of the mayors of towns and village ‘beating the bounds’ once a year. With two people walking side by side a path width is best at around 5ft ( 1.4m) , this works well for a wheel chair too as most need about 32inches clearance when considering the users hands.

The final and perhaps most important design consideration apart from the initial access and egress is the ground contouring, often gardens have changes in levels, these can be quite severe at times and often involve steps ( wheel chairs are not good with steps), they are also an incredible amount of work on steep slopes. So a wise soul has come up with a standard that suggest fairly sensibly that a slope of no more than 1 in 12 is used ( that means 1ft change in level for every 12 ft travelled) , well it could also mean 1m change in level for every 12 m travelled, but I figured that was obvious. To this I might suggest that a 1in12 slope hundreds of yards long isn’t such a great idea with out some resting landings as it is still a lot of work involved. So there is an additional requirement for a landing every 30 ft in length.

Finally, if an event is planned it isn’t that hard to create a temporary access ramp that can be removed when its over.

In the picture below we created a disabled ramp, that double as a pretend boat launching ramp.

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