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Gardening is widely known as a healthful activity for the body, mind and spirit. Anyone can enjoy the benefits of gardening by choosing the proper garden design, using ergonomic or adapted tools, and learning the correct body positioning to safely participate in this healthful and creative part of life. The Chicago Botanic Garden (CBG) Enabling Garden opened in July of 1999 following a three year planning process. The Garden has been designed to conform to universal design principles, requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the American Association of Museums best practices for exhibit design and interpretation at the time it was built. Its primary purpose is to be an educational display of garden design, techniques and tools to encourage accessible, safe and comfortable gardening experiences for everyone. It demonstrates the use of containers, raised beds and vertical gardens to raise planting areas within easy reach and a collection of tools that enable people with disabilities and others who have difficulty using conventional gardening tools to enjoy gardening along with 60 million other Americans.

The Enabling Garden covers 11,000 square feet laid out in a rectangular shape approximately 70 feet wide by 157 feet long with the length running almost due north and south. The walls bordering the Garden are broken up with wood lattice 'windows', and there are entrances and exits that lead to vistas of the surrounding grounds and lakes. The Garden has three main areas or 'rooms' separated by low walls. The northern third is called the 'container court' and includes a covered teaching space, tool shed resource center, restrooms, four matching raised beds and clusters of planters. The central east/west pathway through the Garden is called the 'Gallery.' There is an overhead vine covered arbor at each end to welcome visitors and two matching fountains with pools raised an accessible 24 inches, planting beds along both sides, and two matching vertical wall gardens. The southern third is called the 'Vista Garden' and it displays several accessible gardening features including varying height planters and raised beds, hanging baskets on pulley systems, wall gardens, shallow pan beds and two cascading water walls. The very south end of the garden has a central canopy shade structure flanked be a vine covered wooden arbor supporting 12 hanging baskets on pulley systems along with plenty of benches that allow visitors to enjoy a beautiful view of the Chicago Botanic Garden's lake.

More than 600 different kinds of plants are displayed in the Enabling Garden throughout the year. Many of these plants are selected for their sensory qualities such as fragrance, texture, taste, form and color, ability to attract butterflies etc. Plants are also selected for specific properties, such as vegetables and herbs to be eaten, flowers that can be cut and will last a long time in a vase, or plants that retain desirable properties when dried so they can be used in all crafts.

The photographs in this section provide a general tour of the Enabling Garden at the Chicago Botanic Garden. If you are in the Chicago area, the garden is staffed with experts that can provide tours and answer questions from 11 am to 4:00 pm Wednesday through Sunday mid May through early October. Visit to learn more about the Garden's Horticultural Therapy Services programs and resources available to gardeners with disabilities.

Clicking on the tabs above will take you to a photo tour of the four major components of a barrier free garden that can be seen at the Chigago Botanic Garden. You will also learn several ideas for each of these components that can be done at home on a smaller budget using widely available materials.

NOTE: Click on any of the smaller Thumbnails to get a larger image.

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O: Overview P: Paving C: Containers
R: Raised Beds V: Vertical Garden

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