Gardens of the World Gardens for the Blind

About two gardens for the blind, Brookside Gardens in Maryland and the Buttonbush Trail in Cape Cod, description of both.


Two Gardens for the Blind

"Please touch and handle," reads the sign at Brookside Gardens. It's written in braille. Located in the Wheaton Regional Park in Wheaton, Md., Brookside features one of the country's outstanding gardens for the blind. Planted waist-high, the beds in this special garden are easily accessible to those confined to wheelchairs. Printed and braille plaques describe the various species on display, concentrating on their non-visual features. Visitors are invited to rub the fragrant leaves of rosemary and lavender and to taste small sprigs of French tarragon, lemon thyme, and rue. They can stroke the silky leaves of a succulent called lamb's ear and feel the prickly spines of the holly bush. Warbling birds, rustling leaves, and a murmuring fountain complete the symphony of senses. Only one of many horticultural attractions at Brookside, the garden for the blind also draws a full share of seeing visitors, who flock round the beds to rediscover the smells, tastes, and textures of plants they've looked at all their lives but never experienced fully.

The Buttonbush Trail for the Blind at the Cape Cod National Seashore Park in Eastham, Mass., guides the blind on a walking tour through a typical Cape Cod landscape. Rope handrails, marked to signal the presence of steps, lead the visitor along the half-mile trail. Braille and printed markers describe the trail's attractions. "Crush the leaves of the bayberry bush," reads one marker, "and smell the familiar scent of holiday candles. Colonial housewives made wax from these berries." Other markers urge guests to taste a wild blackberry, a beach plum, or even a wild apple, souvenirs of the days when farmsteads dotted the area. They can also reach out and rub the rough bark of the red cedar tree or the supple, tri-tined needles of the scrub pine. The trail also crosses a small pond that is a haunt of redwing blackbirds. The careful listener can hear their cries.

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