Gardeners’ World: Over the Fence – Should Gardening be Accessible for All?


Gardeners’ World: Over the Fence – Should Gardening be Accessible for All?

The answer is simple – yes! Yet why do we not see more show gardens designed by the physically disabled, the young, the elderly, people with learning difficulties – in fact anyone who has a passion for gardening.

I am a garden designer, and I am in a wheelchair. I love designing gardens that are accessible to ambulatory and to disabled people. So why do I come across so many gardens with awkward steps, narrow paths, small turning circles for wheelchairs, disabled access around the back normally by the bins and not through the main entrance?

I stopped working in London due to ill health 10 years ago, but having published books on horticulture and loving everything about gardening, even being outside in the pouring rain assisting with bulb planting, I decided a career in garden design was for me. There are physical limitations; I am only able to do little, but often, a term known as ‘pacing’, which helps me greatly. Yet, while managing my disabilities I’ve not come across a recognised garden designer in a wheelchair. Why? I have a trusted partner who runs around with a tape measure and contractors to help with construction and planting.

The horticultural industry, and the main players such as the RHS and the National Trust need to open their eyes; so do the plethora of gardens open to the public. Gardening and horticulture should not have barriers and restrictions. We all know and have read about how gardening can improve the physical and mental well-being of people – I am living proof. Without gardening I would be a different person.

I wrote to Dan Pearson and Cleve West and their friendly insights mobilised me in to action. My aspiration is to have a show garden at Chelsea, but who will sponsor me? Who within the world of gardening will embrace a garden designer in a wheelchair? The world of gardening/horticulture needs to open its eyes to everyone, and not be selective. Beautiful gardens and show gardens can be made accessible to all, it just takes a different perspective.