Creating a sensory garden in a courtyard space in a paediatric clinic had to include an element of play, enquiry and calm for children, parents and practitioners alike
I sat down with Andrew and Tanya, and discussed what the garden needs were for their pediatric clinic. The blank canvass was a central courtyard space that was inviting to parents, allowed children to play. For many children attending the Doctor can be somewhat of a harrowing experience. The soothing effects of plants and the interaction with nature can offset their concerns prior to appointments.
We discussed greenery for its visual appeal, ability to lower temperatures of the courtyard and consulting rooms. Good access from front entrance to the rear of the other consulting rooms. We also required a seated space for everyone, from anxious mothers to Doctors needing a relaxing lunch break in a tranquil setting. The Garden Clinic is based on this concept that nature calms and cools and for children this couldn’t more appropriate.
Many concepts were considered before a preliminary plan was decided upon. We also had to make a garden with completely non-toxic plants, that had colour and interest for the children, surrounded by glass we had to ensure no small rocks were available for unexpected launch.
Access for wheelchairs had to facilitated a clear path from the south to north side of the practice.
The area was small 60m2 at it’s best and we had to cater for many needs in this area. We are dealing with a small compact space. Too many plant species and it looks confusing. Too many similar plants and it becomes dull.
Scorching sun during summer with no ventilation could and will kill plants in a moment with no wind circulating. No sun in winter would leave some plants weak and susceptible to disease.
Eastern side consulting rooms would have the propensity to be exposed to mid to afternoon sun so they needed some protection from green walls.
Firstly, we created a pathway between the two doors with a relatively inexpensive solution as opposed to hard pavers. Artificial turf for the walkway between north and south entry points was chosen as its porous base would handle heavy Perth winter rain and held a low likelihood of injury for children. Find the path of least resistance, I.e where will people walk if not suggested to. That is your starting point. Why would you create a path which defies the quickest point from one to another. Marriage of form and function.
Second, what plants can we include that are non-toxic to children but still have a wow factor.
Third, we are dealing with babies, toddlers and children so an element of play with random steppers was created around the central tree where a parent can supervise from a bench seat less than a metre away. Soft fine pine bark mulch was installed as per Australian standards in playgrounds to prevent any nasty falls.
The north facing southern wall of the garden can be hot so we planted Bird of Paradise, for its hardiness, and ability to handle either a tropical or succulent garden application due to its versatlity.
Bamboos were included for vertical height in the high walled garden. After a year we have shoots that are 3 metres at least in height. This was also important as some of the consulting rooms as much of the space have the propensity to get extremely hot.
In addition, we suggested the erection of two shade sails which go up in summer but come down in winter to prevent fungal disease in the garden.
Finally, a lighting system was added to give the garden that extra dimension at night.
The garden features
Central Leopard Tree
Fast growing but clumping bamboo ‘Alphonse Carr’ Multiplex
Bamboo palms for more shaded areas
Mondo grass as a border
Bromeliads- Spectacular year round colour
Ti-Trees or botanical name Cordyline Fruticosia, many different vareities and heights to create interest.
Feature tree fern to eventually provide a canopy to smaller tropicals
False Aralia and Variegated Ginger
Birds Nest ferns – to provide interest at a lower level
Knowing my love of native flowering plants and wanting to retain the large central Paperbark in my front yard. Nigel presented several different concept designs with this in mind. The circular design complements the existing aggregate and deck. His team installed water wise natives with succulents which require minimal maintenance, and feature masses of red and yellow kangaroo paws in spring and summer, and stunning dwarf banksias in autumn. I love spending time in my garden.