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Welcome One & All

2020 welcomes the second year of the Universally Designed McGraw Family Garden of the Senses at Heritage Museums & Gardens

Strolling through a garden, basking in the warming sun, and sniffing the beautiful surrounding blooms is the epitome of a glorious spring day. But for some people, that perfect day isn’t necessarily an option. Heritage Museums & Gardens in Sandwich is known for their 100 acres of sprawling gardens and trails, but working with the undulating landscape of Cape Cod means that some of the trails and gardens can be a challenge for even the most athletic visitors. So in 2017, Heritage, in partnership with Dirtworks Landscape Architecture and the Horsley Witten Group, set out to create a space for anyone and everyone to enjoy. July 2019 saw the opening of the McGraw Family Garden of the Senses, the first wellness garden introduced on Cape Cod. 

“We want to invite people of all ages, abilities and mobility levels to connect with nature, and to allow everyone to engage in the garden experience,” Anne Scott-Putney, President & CEO of Heritage explains, “Our goal is to create a welcoming space for everyone. The McGraw Family Garden of the Senses offers a rich sensory experience with accessible and easy terrain.” The garden was designed to provide universal access to visitors of all physical and mental capabilities, and has been awarded bronze by the International Association of Universal Design Awards Program. Wheelchair accessible boardwalks wind through the two acres of gardens, bypassing the difficult terrain and offering visitors access to the gardens. The plants are there to be smelled, touched, and fully experienced, while water features and stunning vistas add to the experience. Some of the land used in the garden was not previously open to the public due to the surrounding landscape. But now it is open to every visitor, and has the added benefit of making existing features like the 1800 Old East Windmill and the Hart Family Maze Garden easier to access. The Garden of the Senses acts as a thread, connecting separate features while discreetly accommodating a wide range of abilities.

“Universal Design expands opportunity and enhances the experience for people of all ages, abilities and cultures.  Design is a powerful and influential tool in improving our daily lives, helping to enhance experience, build confidence, provide comfort and offer control.  Variations in individual ability are simply a part of life; at some point we will all have to address such variations.  Universal Design accommodates that,” says David Kamp, FASLA, LF, NA, Founder of Dirtworks Landscape Architecture, “This garden is a natural expression of Universal Design. It seeks to provide opportunity and choice for each visitor to engage with nature on their own terms, in their own way and at their own pace. This is achieved within a series of unique settings, each with distinct character, different interests and degrees of activity. Designed to offer varying levels of sensory engagement, the configuration, materials and details focus on tactile, auditory, visual, olfactory and gustatory experiences. Beyond the five senses, the garden seeks to engage and improve upon range of motion, vestibular, motor planning, proprioception and cognition skills. The garden also reflects considerations of safety and security, strength and stamina, awareness and orientation, privacy and respite, sequences and transitions, interest and activity, and flexibility for changing needs.” 

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