- Listening to students’ and staff personal stories about outdoor access – or not- in gardens
- Exploring our 0.1 mile wheelchair-accessible trail using a newly created physical clay map (allows finger-tracing) and/or an updated printed version
- Q+A about roses, with readings from selected books and publications
- Smelling several varieties of roses in cups (thorns removed)
- Sharing and discussing the experience
- Program evaluation
We want our gardens to be accessible to all. This trip marks our beginning to learn more about designing and building for the visually impaired. The story below was pre-sent to the students in the format of a word doc, Arial 14 pt.
Moving forward with a listening heart,
vision, inquiry, and action,
My Respite to Roses Story
Written for my 6/19/19 visit with the Carroll Center for the Blind Students & Staff
by Mary E. MacDonald, 6/17/19, 202 Haverhill Rd. Topsfield, MA 01983
My mom, Margaret, was a full-time elementary music teacher. Each May, A 20’ by 10’ patch on the south side of our home would get rototilled by the same local man who owned the rototiller. “Please avoid the asparagus and strawberries,” mom would say. She and I would visit the nursery on Memorial Day Weekend, buy, and plant the tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, zinnias, cosmos, and marigolds for the border (her natural method for keeping unwanted pests out of the garden). She never planted a rose.
Growing up, I was a music student – piano, flute, then voice, and attended public school in North Syracuse, NY, where mom and dad were both teachers – dad, a guidance counselor. My limited experience with roses was seeing them on TV, at the supermarket, and in arrangements. Most of the time, they looked pretty but didn’t have a fragrance.
It wasn’t until my mother’s end-of-life, when I became her caregiver, that I desperately wanted to “smell the roses” as a refreshing, romantic break from the terrible brain disease FTD which was ruling her life and mine. On Mother’s Day, 2008, I arranged for my mom, dad, fiancé, and myself, to visit the closest botanical garden to her care-facility at the time. I had hoped they would have some roses to smell. When I asked, they said they didn’t have any. This was a big disappointment. They suggested we might visit a “Secret Garden” where a few were growing. When we did check it out, we found it difficult to access with mom’s wheelchair.
This experience stuck with me and spurred me into action when in 2017, I received a large financial gift in memory of mom, from mom’s best friend, Peggy. My spouse Karl and I had built a 0.1 mile wheelchair-accessible garden trail in mom’s memory in 2011. With the funding from Peggy, we could buy and plant 50 roses close to the trail, for care-receivers and care-givers to smell!
This was a big investment in something I didn’t know much about- roses. The spring of 2017, after purchasing and planting 50 roses, I quickly joined the New England Rose Society and begged for a mentor! Marlene from Danvers came to our home and showed me what to do. Then, in June, I returned to the botanical garden to meet the members of the club at their annual “Rose Show.” They were very friendly. The club President, Teresa, was selling a how-to-care-for-your-roses book, I purchased it and use it today to care for 120 rose plants — many of these plants have been donated and planted by the New England Rose Society, and most are fragrant!
Karl and I host a once-a-month Sunday Stroll event, 11am – 2pm, at our wheelchair-accessible garden which is open to all and free-of-charge. Our passion is to serve weary care-partners and their loved ones living with chronic or serious illnesses, who may be nearing the end-of-life. I also offer private tours by appointment.