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Elevated water features and lower gardens are perfect for those in wheelchairs, quiet areas with relaxing scents and sounds are perfect for those who are easily stimulated, and sections of the garden focus mainly on the other senses, engaging texture and smell, which not only makes the garden accessible to those with sensory issues, but the scents can help evoke memories. “Plants in that area have an interesting or distinct scent or texture, like rosemary and basil,” describes Les Lutz, Director of Horticulture and Facilities management at Heritage, “As you walk down the boardwalk, you encounter an area that’s much more colorful; it’s really meant to just be a riot of color.” The smallest details add to the overall experience. “We chose a lot of plants that will trail over walls,” explains Lutz, “the garden has about 250 feet of linear walls and we want to soften some of them with the trailing plants, like sweet potato vines.” Lutz and his team added 11 new species of trees, 15 species of shrubs, 62 species of perennials and 25 annual species, resulting in over 20,000 new plants for visitors to experience throughout the garden.

Heritage worked closely with various national and local organizations that serve individuals with physical and cognitive challenges, including Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Sight Loss Services of Cape Cod, Avita Assisted Living Memory Care communities, and many more, to ensure that every aspect of the garden was as inclusive and accessible as possible. In turn, these organizations are welcome to use the garden with their clients, ensuring that the collaborative planning process is leveraged to its maximum potential. 

The McGraw Family Garden of the Senses is a true testament to what can happen when groups come together to create a welcoming, more accessible world. Bringing together Heritage, Dirtworks and Horsley Witten resulted in a space that will surely stand the test of time, and inspire others to bring more of that magic to the area. “One aspect that made this project unique is the level of collaboration.  In order to create a universally accessible garden that preserves the qualities of this beautiful setting, we needed to find a sensitive balance between the needs of the users and the demands of the site. We had to address a challenging terrain, historic structures and mature plantings while also accommodating the varied physical and psychological needs of visitors. This was achieved with a sustained collaboration with Heritage’s horticultural and program staff, a terrific engineering team, and community partners representing the region’s health organizations.  This collaboration began with the garden’s programming and lasted through design and construction,” says Kamp of the experience. 

“The Collaboration also included the great generosity of Dave and Missy McGraw and a number of individuals who shared our vision to create a stunningly beautiful and accessible space for all people to engage with nature at their own pace and in their own time,” added Scott-Putney, “we simply could not have achieved this vision without their support.

For more information, visit or wander the gardens at 67 Grove Street, Sandwich

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