Saturday, August 18

Visit to the CBG III: Rediscovering Childhood

The Hershey Children's Garden is a magical place, and it is open to children of all ages--as the docent was quick to reassure us when we inquired whether "we adults" were allowed to enter. That may have been true, but there were many features (like this vine-covered arch that Amy was nice enough to pose beside, to give a sense of scale) that were strictly designed for the smaller set.

I'm glad that I didn't have to miss the opportunity to visit this wonderland... and I'm also glad that there weren't too many people in the garden that day. The kids may have understood, but their parents would likely have rolled their eyes at our exclamations of delight as we explored this little paradise.

A small station at the entrance to the garden shows several cut flowers in small bottles, which children are supposed to look at, remember, and then find in the garden as they explore. A sundial in the patio floor there allows you to stand in the center and use your own shadow to determine the time--and all birthdays are listed around the outside of the sundial. (The docent said that the kids just love to walk around and find their birthdays here.) There is even a maze in the garden... an entrance to what looks like a stand of arborvitae reveals itself as you walk past. The path winds you into the center of the stand, and then winds you back out near the exit.

The huge treehouse at one end of the garden beckoned us first. It spanned a change in elevation, so you could walk up a hill to enter through the back door of the second floor, or you could start at the bottom and climb the stairs. We chose the former, and on the way up the hill we passed an educational station about water gardens. The trough full of water and plants included these instructions: "We are water hyacinths. We float on top of the water. Pick us up and look at our roots." Who could resist obeying? Not me!

The treehouse was fun, with a potted "root beer plant," benches to sit on and books to read. As we exited the stairs, we were drawn toward the pond garden with wooden walkways at its base. Several children were crouched near the water's edge, squealing with delight as they pointed out the golden koi navigating around waterlilies and cattails. I didn't quite feel right about taking pictures of someone else's children, but I did get a picture of someone else enjoying the wooden pathways--just before we got too close and caused him to jump back in.

Next we discovered the kids' version of the kitchen garden. Lots of herbs, veggies, and instructional signs here... along with a kid-sized garden shed that had the loveliest door I've seen in a while. The plantings here were meant to entrance kids by attracting butterflies, introducing them to new scents and flavors, and providing a general sense of awe.

We were pretty entranced ourselves--especially after the docent told us that we were welcome to eat any ripe berries that we could find. Those, apparently, are for children of all ages, too, but we only managed to spot one inky beauty. Since I have my own blackberry bush at home, I allowed Amy to enjoy the whole thing in spite of her offer to "go halves."

The garden is not just about enjoyment, however. There are learning opportunities around every corner. A vermicomposter sat near the spot where kid-sized stepping stones embedded with everything from marbles to tooth-marked Legos were set out to dry. It had been part of that day's activities for those children who joined the educational lesson series there. Elsewhere, a 3-compartment composting station explained the stages of making "black gold," (yes, their sign really said that!) from Beginning to Working to Finished.

In case you couldn't tell, this was one of my favorite places at the Cleveland Botanical Garden. All children (of all ages) should have the opportunity to experience such a fantastic place! After our visit here, we needed to take a quick break to sit down and enjoy some refreshment at the garden cafe. Time to recharge between wonderlands: The glasshouse, showcasing the spiny desert of Madagascar and the cloud forest of Costa Rica, is up next.


Anonymous said...

I had a water hyacinth in my water garden last year and I could rarely resist picking it up to look at the roots on a daily basis. I think all gardeners are kids at heart because I want to explore that garden in the worst way! Thanks for taking us on a tour, Kim.

Anonymous said...

What a gorgeous garden Kim. It must have been hard to drag yourself away from it.

I love their compost bins especially. They look kind of "professionally rustic" and altogether enviable.

Great two posts.

lisa said...

What a cool place! I would be inclined to spend a lot of time there myself, being just a kid in adults' clothing and all! ;-)

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