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Pelham Bay Park

The Daily Plant : Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Sooth The Senses At The Sensory Garden

Photo by Donna Dietrich

The parks of New York City are filled with places to roam, play, and pass the time of day. The Parks Department is committed to increasing accessibility to the natural world for children of all abilities. Last fall, children of all abilities were given new natural realms to explore with the creation of the Sensory Garden in Pelham Bay Park’s Playground for All Children.

Established through the generosity of The Hagedorn Fund, the 700-square-foot Sensory Garden is a delightful addition to the playground, offering children of varying abilities a chance to connect with nature in intimate, engaging ways. At the Garden’s center is a teardrop-shaped planting bed that adds natural elements of color, sound, touch, and smell to the built features of the playground. Plants include the fragrant “Tiny Rubies” Dianthus and Creeping Lemon Thyme; soft-as-velvet Lambs’ Ears and rough-edged Arborvitae; and the noisy ruffling stalks of Purple Fountain Grass. Brightly colored flowers in the garden include numerous yarrows in yellow, red, orange, and pink, as well as a variety of colorful Butterfly Bush.

The main attraction of the Sensory Garden is a raised wheelchair-accessible L-shaped planter complete with dwarf evergreens, herbs, and flowering vines to creep up the trellis and posts. A small side garden of evergreens provides soft colors, feathery textures, minty scents, and fall fruits for wildlife. Most of the Sensory Garden plants will vary in texture, sight, and smell as they change seasonally, and many attract birds, insects, and butterflies.

The Friends of Pelham Bay Park and the Pelham Bay Park Administrator’s Office collaborated closely on the project and, with grant money from the New York City Environmental Fund, hired Seasonal Gardener/Educator Donna Dietrich to provide on-site coordination. Dietrich’s horticultural creativity is apparent in the Sensory Garden and throughout the playground where several small garden beds were cleaned, weeded, mulched, and re-established with sensory plants, creating a “natural” link between the play areas and the main Sensory Garden site. This design plan has increased the number of potential opportunities for children with disabilities to experience nature throughout the play setting.

During the summer, work on the Garden created quite a buzz in the community and amongst those groups who regularly use the playground. As weeds were pulled and flowers planted, Dietrich was continually answering questions, receiving positive feedback, and making connections with organizations and schools who care for children with disabilities. By the time school was back in session, several educational workshops were scheduled and children from the South Bronx Center, PS 811X and the Autistic Program at Co-op City’s P.S. 176 got to clear leaves, water plants, smell the crushed leaves of herbs, and plant seedlings.

The beauty of the garden was matched by the brawn of Bronx Parks. With the full support and dedication of Borough Operations, the garden’s essential elements – the concrete path, garden beds, and raised planters – were put in place. Supervisor of Bronx Technical Services Steve Yanolatos assisted with the technical aspects of the garden’s design and layout. Boro Crews Supervisor Vincent Morrone and his staff excavated the site, placed gravel substrate, and delivered compost and soil. Under Yanolatos’ supervision, Mason Tommy Weber laid down the cement walkway. Raised beds were designed and built by Carpenters Greg Kelly and James Murray, with assistance from Sheet Metal Worker Eugene Desplantes and Shops Assistant Carlos Feliciano.

Thanks to the many people who contributed their time and energy to the project, including Friends of Pelham Bay Park Chair Franz Helmke and their board of directors, Bronx Parks Commissioner Hector Aponte, Chief of Operations John Bachman, Deputy Chiefs Paul D’Amore and Tom Russo, Administrator Margot Perron, Supervisor Nick Mancini and the Pelham Bay maintenance staff, Gardener Matilda Mosleh and Landscape Architect Claire Dudley.

Written by Marianne O'Hea Anderson


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Directions to Pelham Bay Park

Know Before You Go

There are currently 2 service interruptions affecting access within this park.

Nature CentersOrchard Beach Nature Center

The Orchard Beach Nature Center is currently closed for repairs.
Anticipated Completion: 09/01/2017

PlaygroundsSweetgum Playground

NYC Parks has removed slides in this park due to a manufacturer recall. The manufacture is currently working on an improved design and redesigned slides will be installed as soon as possible.

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