Stratford School Academy, London E7 9PR
At the tail end of 2018 we were approached by Stratford School Academy and asked if we would consider designing and installing a sensory garden at their Upton Park site. With a tight budget and comprehensive list of ideas we agreed to put forward a proposal.
The site in question was used as a car park with a boundary fenceline onto two roads. Existing planting was four mature Planus trees and a dead Laurel hedge. Our first step was to remove the dead hedge and replace it with a mixed native species hedgerow. The aim of this was to provide a barrier for particulate pollutants from passing traffic and a new habitat as an educational resource. The hedge includes Hazel,Hornbeam, Beech,Wild privet and an evrgreen addition from New Zealand called Griselinia.
We presented the design drawings in December with supporting documentation and were happy to have them fully accepted.
The proposal for the new garden is based on sustainable principles. The garden is designed for the long term, this means that the layout and the materials used have been considered with a steady and sustainable evolution in mind, using suppliers who support sustainble environmental practices.
This means that any timber used is FSC (forestry stewardship council) registered and the rainwater-harvesting unit is made from recycled material. Wherever possible materials are all from UK suppliers to reduce the carbon footprint. The inclusion of rainwater harvesting is in line with supporting an accountable reduced water footprint and the composting facilities provided are aimed at supporting the recycling and reuse of crucial nutrients held in waste plant and food matter. The planting plans and species chosen will increase biodiversity across a range of species not only on site but over time in the wider local area. The intention for growing of food and plants in the garden is for this to be done following Organic principles and methods. Tools and seedstock will be provided along with seasonal practical support if required as a seperate project.
Construction will begin in March 2019 and should be completed by April.
We believe a sensory garden should address all the senses and in doing so provide the widest range of possibilities of use for all potential users.
Sight; The visual experience is initially created through foliage, blossom and bark. This can be further improved with structure and growth habit using climbers, perennials, shrubs and trees. The introduction of trellis panels and overhead pergolas to support the climbers can create a sense of mystery, containment, and an encouragement to the eyes to explore. Use of glass, Perspex, mirrors and textured reflective surfaces provides yet another visual opportunity.
Smell: Scent is one of the strongest of our senses. It has the ability to stimulate memory and to connect memories. The fragrance of flowers and foliage is at once both stimulating and intoxicating. When fragrance is released through contact it allows the two senses to work together and in doing so creates a more fulfilling experience.
Touch: The possible textures in the garden are almost endless. Through plants and their foliage we have textures such as soft, furry, abrasive, mottled, ribbed, prickly, sticky, smooth, linear to name but a few. Through imaginative planting we can provide a rich diversity of plants that will not only please the senses but also be useful in related learning activities such as cookery or arts projects. Textures do not end with plants, through the use of stones, wood and even the soil itself we can offer further stimulating experience. With changing mobiles we can include movement supporting tactile and phonic experience. Mobiles are easy to make from a variety of materials and this ongoing art/design theme is yet another way in which the use of the garden can be a part of sensory experience. The inclusion of a freestanding weaving frame allows the use of recycled fabric for creative tactile design.
Sound: Sound in a garden is usually made by wind through foliage such as grasses or by water either dripping, running over or through a surface. In this instance we have not been allowed to include a water feature but with some simple creative activity water can still become part of the garden experience. Wind chimes and other outdoor instruments can provide a variety of noises which themselves invoke memory and a sense of being somewhere else.
Taste: Taste is achieved by utilizing the plants themselves. In the simplest instance a berry of other fruit, herb, vegetable, picked fresh, washed and eaten. Alternatively the infusion of herbs to create teas and cool summer drinks is an easy task for almost anyone to participate in. When growing salad and vegetables the picking, chopping, cooking and eating experience touches on all the senses while providing a rich and healthy educational resource.