A Partnership: Growing Vertical Part 1

Today we're delving into the story of our vertical gardening system in the Learning Garden!
The Learning and Sensory Garden is a place that is always changing. Whether it be what we're growing or changing features, we like to keep things exciting for the visitor experience. We're always exploring new ideas.

This winter, we were approached by The Labiste family, who are local residents and frequenters of Pinecrest Gardens. Their Daughter, Katie was beginning her Gold Award for Girl Scouts (the highest award achieved in Girl Scouts) and came to us with an idea.  Katie expressed that she has always wanted to help people, and that she thought that through this project she could make a difference.

Katie is a freshman at Miami Palmetto Senior high, a member of many clubs, plays tennis and guitar, and is active in Girl Scouts.

Pinecrest Gardens has a history with Girl Scouts in that we work closely with the Tropical Council to provide programs for girl scouts, as well as host girl scout troop meetings and events at the Garden. While we always do our best to work with scouts in their projects, we also make sure that the projects they propose fit in with our mission.

The project, in Katie's words, was inspired by friends of hers who were affected by sensory processing disorders and anxiety.  She wanted to build for us a vertical garden that could fill otherwise unused space, and provide a sensory and tactile friendly area of the Garden.  We knew when we designed The Learning Garden, that eventually we would be looking for more creative spaces to grow.   Being that the Learning Garden is an all inclusive space, and the plants grown here are used for programming, we felt Katie's proposal fit perfectly with who we are.

Together Katie and I discussed our mutual needs for the project, agreeing that we need more space to grow sensory friendly plants, it needs to be easily accessible by wheelchair, and we would like to have some type of tactile panels to add to the project. Our collective goal was to incorporate visuals, scents, textures, and tasting elements to engage the community and enhance their mood and health while visiting.  Thus, the vertical garden was born!

Our living wall consists of 3 fabric panels, and six sensory friendly tactile panels.  The planter wall has 72 pockets for growing, and each of the 6 tactile panels features a texture.  The panels are hung in between the planters, attached to a portion of the fence. Katie has handmade some of the tactile panels herself, and we love how they turned out! The tactile panels were added for an additional sensory processing feature. Textures are used often in sensory integration therapy for those faced with sensory processing disorders.  Textures that people can engage with can help lower anxiety, stress, and allow them to respond better to sensory input. This in turn allows them to feel safe and confident in their environment.

Katie worked on the weekends at our Farmers Market to survey the response, and focused on educating the community about sensory friendly garden techniques. She got a wonderful response from the  The living wall was installed in February, 2020, and Katie received her Gold Award on March 1st for her Vertical Garden project.  Thanks Katie!

In part two of this post, we will go a bit more in depth on Vertical gardening systems including care, what we're growing, and how ours was made.