Envisioned as a special spot where anyone can experience the joys and benefits of gardening, the new Garden Within Reach at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, Massachusetts, is now under construction and will open to the public in October 2015. Garden Within Reach will be New England’s largest garden devoted to the principles of universal design, a style of landscape architecture intended to give people of all abilities a more intimate connection to the smells, sights, and textures of the outdoors.

Garden Within Reach will be prominently and centrally located on Tower Hill Botanic Garden’s property, between the historic farmhouse and main buildings housing the conservatories, educational center, restaurant, and shop. Rendering by: wHY Architecture & Design.

“Many of us take getting outside and gardening for granted, but each of us at some point in life is likely to experience some limits to mobility. At Tower Hill, our goal is to serve every member of our regional community, to educate as well as to inspire, and to bring us all together to enjoy the mental and physical health benefits of cultivating plants,” says public relations coordinator Robert Burgess.

The idea behind a garden based on universal design is to bring plants and nature closer to people who might otherwise find access difficult. Plans for Garden Within Reach include raising garden beds to a height people can reach from a wheelchair or without bending, and hanging planters that can be lowered to eye level. Gentle slopes and wide paths will permit unencumbered entry to all elements of the landscape. And a living garden wall combining herbs, vegetables, and ornamental plants will demonstrate the possibilities of gardening above ground level.

The new Garden Within Reach at Tower Hill is a modern example of a well-established style of landscape architecture known as universal design. Featuring wide pathways, gentle slopes, and raised garden beds, it can be explored by people of all ages and abilities. Rendering by: wHY Architecture & Design.

Garden Within Reach will also emphasize plants that have great texture and fragrance for those with visual impairments. “Seasonally changing containers will provide opportunities for growing spring-blooming bulbs, herbs and vegetables, decorative ornamentals, and plants with exceptional winter beauty. Hanging baskets will contain beautiful combinations of colorful plants selected for their ease of cultivation. Table-height containers will lend themselves to planting within particular themes. Alpine plants, dwarf conifers, plants for pollinators, succulent plants, aquatic and bog plants, and edible plants are among the themes that will be explored over time,” Burgess says.

Living walls of herbs, vegetables, and ornamental plants will demonstrate the possibilities of gardening above ground level. Rendering by: wHY Architecture & Design.

The key visionaries, designers, and installers behind Garden Within Reach include Tower Hill CEO Kathy Abbott and horticulture director Joann Vieira; designers wHY Architecture & Design, New York; landscape architect Ryan Associates, Waltham, Massachusetts; Lauring Construction Co. Inc., Worcester, Massachusetts; and civil engineer Thompson-Liston Associates, Boylston, Massachusetts. For more information about Garden Within Reach, visit this blog post.

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