Tower Hill Botanic Garden welcomes the public to discover The Court: A Garden Within Reach from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, June 12. Volunteers and staff will be celebrating the opening of this innovative space, Tower Hill’s 15th garden, and offering insights to visitors and members about the area’s special features.
Construction for The Court, named for Robert Courtemanche, a generous supporter of Tower Hill, was completed in the fall of 2015. Planting commenced this spring with the help of guests from organizations such as the Seven Hills Foundation, which promotes and encourages the empowerment of people with significant challenges so that each may pursue their highest possible degree of personal well-being and independence.
“Tower Hill’s goal is that visitors leave The Court with ideas to grow plants and reshape their own outdoor spaces in new ways,” said Interim CEO Suzanne Maas. “We hope guests return often to benefit again and again even more from the close contact with plants and with our community of plant lovers.”
Volunteers from Canines for Disabled Kids help plant the herb garden bed.
Many individuals and organizations, such as the Massachusetts Cultural Council, helped contribute guidance and financial support to make the inclusive garden a reality. It is a model of universal design – an architectural strategy that seeks to produce aesthetically pleasing spaces that are inherently accessible to all people, with or without disability.
The garden features raised planting beds, a water feature than can be easily accessed by those using wheelchairs, gentle sloping walkways, display of ergonomic tools, extensive seating, hanging planters that may be raised and lowered by pulley systems for ease of access, and plants selected for their beauty, texture, and fragrance,.
“This new space engages a growing audience of people with various levels of mobility,” said Joann Vieira, Tower Hill’s director of horticulture. “It brings gardening back to many people. This beautiful and functional space can have a major impact on so many people who may have felt left out of gardening.”
The new garden was first envisioned in Tower Hill’s original 50-year Master Plan as a place where “horticulture therapy” could take place. Today, the field of study is becoming more popular as a strategy for improving mental and physical health.
Volunteers from Mathworks help plant the living wall.
Extensive scientific research correlates the benefits of spending time in nature with improved physical and mental health. The Court is specifically designed to offer visitors – including those with hearing, vision, cognitive, and mobility limitations – to experience more intimate connection to the smells, sights, and textures of the outdoors.
The Court fits with Tower Hill’s goals to be a welcoming outdoor space where visitors of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds can learn the value of plants in our world. Educational programming, including hands-on workshops, has been developed and offered to members and the public, to allow people of all abilities to appreciate the joys and benefits of gardening.
The Garden Within Reach was designed by the New York- and Los Angeles-based architectural firm wHY and Ryan Associates of Waltham, and built by Lauring Construction of Worcester.
Tower Hill staff and trustees selected the space between the historic farmhouse and main buildings – which house the conservatories, educational center, restaurant, and shop – as the location for The Court. The intention is for a central and prominent location on Tower Hill’s 132-acre property, the home of the 175-year-old Worcester County Horticultural Society, where all are welcome.
This is a garden space that families of multiple generations will enjoy together, from toddlers to grandparents. It’s a space where veterans recovering from physical or mental health challenges could benefit from practicing techniques for accessible gardening. Those recovering from surgical procedures would find an inspiring place conducive to recuperation. Most of us will experience mobility limitations at some point in our lifetimes, which is why the garden is truly for all of us.
Tower Hill Botanic Garden is located at 11 French Drive in Boylston, Mass. For more information, please call 508-869-6111.