Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

“Stooling” or cutting back shrubs and trees

Friday, February 24th, 2012

Normally, this time of year is a good time for performing rejuvenation pruning on shrubs that have overgrown. However, with our warm winter, it’s also time to start “stooling” shrubs and trees. What is “stooling”? It’s cutting back plants such as Paulownia so that the plant puts its effort into huge leaves without making a big tree. Or it’s increasing the intense purple color of Smokebush (Cotinus coggygria). Or, it maintains the bright, intense color of red and yellow twig dogwoods, as well as certain willows.

Contact me to arrange colorful pruning!

Late “Winter” Pruning

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

I usually recommend rejuvenation pruning now (for bringing back overgrown shrubs), followed by “stooling” — cutting back shrubs to increase leaf size or bark color.

Click on the following link to learn more about what’s happening in the garden and what you can be doing (or have done!)…

WildlifehabitatFeb2012 – Copy

Morgan’s Wonderland — Background info

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

“The inspiration for Morgan’s Wonderland originated in 2006 when philanthropist Gordon Hartman observed a poignant occurrence involving his daughter Morgan, a child with special needs, and a group of other children. All were on vacation splashing in a hotel swimming pool. Morgan appeared as if she wanted to take part in the fun, and the others exhibited similar interest in interacting with Morgan. Unfortunately, the connection never materialized.

Hartman thought then and there how wonderful it would be to create a special place for special friends. It would be an environment for inclusion and understanding. It would be an oasis for those needing a safe place to relax and enjoy the outdoors. Hartman quickly learned that millions of children and adults with cognitive and physical challenges generally do not have access to facilities specifically established to assist them in enjoying outdoor activities.

Thus, Morgan’s Wonderland began with a desire to re-image the possibilities of what an inclusive park could be, if everyone were free to soar beyond their perceived limitations. This colorful and ultra-accessible 25-acre park serves as a haven not only for those with special needs but also for their families, friends and the entire community.” (accessed from the Morgan’s Wonderland website:

For those of you out there who are curious how this project was financed, there is an interesting description of that on the site as well: Hartman developed a large athletic complex that, through the funds brought in for the activities in this venue, provided initial monies for the purchase of land and other features for Morgan’s Wonderland.

Friends who keep abreast of the latest news in accessibility and children’s environments told me about Morgan’s Wonderland when it opened to the public. It wasn’t until I was scheduled to visit San Antonio for the National Trampoline Competition in July and I was searching for places to visit there that I reconnected with Morgan’s Wonderland.

In the next few days, I’ll go over some of my observations of this unique children’s environment. If you have visited this place (or other places) and would like to add your comments, that would be so neat!!

Tomorrow: Accent on Security (no, not National types).

Morgan’s Wonderland in San Antonio, Texas

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

Last month (July), when I was attending the National Trampoline Competition in this lovely city (San Antonio), I also got to visit Morgan’s Wonderland. This is a play environment for children of all abilities and ages (0 – 100+). It has a number of playgrounds, including water tables, sand areas, swings, slides and other play equipment, a carousel, train, off-road vehicles, fishing, model boats and more! Here is the link to my Facebook Page to connect you with a variety of photos.

Ways to engage in fun this week (September 5th – 11th, 2010)

Monday, September 6th, 2010

Friday, September 10th:

Check out the Kennett Farmer’s Market, 2 PM – 6 PM! Good, local food and people!

  • Their blog is
  • Our site, Kennett Clay Club, will be back at the Market on September 17th

Longwood Gardens Honey Harvest 4 PM – 9 PM on Friday

  • Make your own beeswax votive candle
  • Sample different types of honey
  • Meet the beekeeper and find out all about bees and how they make honey
  • Discover delicious and healthy ways you can use honey
  • Learn about bee-friendly flowers and plants for your home garden
  • Explore the history of honey from around the world
  • Indulge in a 4-course dinner in 1906
  • Enjoy honey-inspired entrees and desserts in the Cafe

The Engagement Zone

Monday, April 5th, 2010

The two boys perch on the edge of a rock slab, that sits in a shallow pool, and peer into the rock-lined edges of the pool where hides a green tree frog. The frog suddenly jumps onto the rock slab directly in front of the boys before leaping into the pool. The boys let out whoops of joy and continue their search for the frog, together. What you don’t know is that the boys are in a children’s garden and, until a few moments ago, had never met before. Encounters with animals, especially up close, but even from a distance, are one of the major draws for children in outdoor environments. Over the past six years, I have been performing post-occupancy evaluations and observations of children’s environments. As a result of this research, I’ve tallied animal encounters (or sightings) as one of the top two draws that attract children, regardless of their age or ability. As infants, we are attracted to movement. And animals move! As we age, we become increasingly curious about how other things live. One of the most popular hobbies of senior citizens, for example, is bird-watching. Is this because of the count of rare birds, or does this come from a more basic interest in living things?

The most popular draw (and I’ve also asked children about this) appears to be water. Not only does the water look and sound intriguing, but it also feels great! In fact, children attempt to touch the water regardless of the location. For example, at the Hershey Children’s Garden in Hershey, PA, even where a fountain was physically inaccessible because shrubs had been planted around the pool, children still attempted to climb over the shrubs to get to the water (observed 7/29/09). The Indoor Children’s Garden at Longwood Gardens is recognized more for its fountains than for its plants, yet it constantly occupies children of all ages. Through my evaluation work, I analyze where and how and how many people spend their time. On the ramp at the Indoor Children’s Garden, toddlers not only touch the water that spurts up from the numerous small fountains, but also spend time manipulating the spray of the water that comes out of each fountain, attempting to hit people nearby with it. Toddlers have a reach that extends anywhere from 8 to 12 inches, depending upon how long their arms are. The trough that holds the small salamander fountains is within easy reach of toddlers – only seven inches away – and this accessibility contributes to its popularity. It was rated as one of the most popular places in the Indoor Children’s Garden by parents when I interviewed them about where they and their children spent the most time and had the most fun.

The parents also commented that they (the parents) enjoyed the herbs that were planted on the wall that they leaned against, while they were watching their children. Here, the herbs were in direct contact with parent’s head and shoulders. In other words, the plants were within the parents’ reach. I call this reach area the engagement zone because, through touch, the person becomes engaged in the environment.

I have observed that when the person cannot touch something, they either extend their reach or move on to something else.  An example of this is in the Secret Room at the Indoor Children’s Garden, which houses a large sculptural fountain called the Drooling Dragon. This area received some of the lowest ratings by children and parents and was observed to have only few children in it. Parents of children under four years of age reported that their children were afraid of the dragon and requested that their parents not take them into that part of the garden. I observed that many of the younger children who did venture into the Secret Room and tried to reach into the fountain were not able to do so – it was designed for larger children to touch the water, according to the drawings made by Tres Fromme, the designer. One older child dipped his hands into the fountain and made handprints on the slate walls. His younger sister asked her parents for help to reach the water so she could do this, too. When I reported this to Nancy Bowley, who is in charge of children’s activities, she purchased large paintbrushes for the room which extended the reach of the younger children. In subsequent observations and interviews, I was told by many parents that their children were no longer afraid to go into the Secret Room; in fact, many delighted in dipping the paintbrush into the dragon’s mouth in order to paint on the walls with the “bigger kids.” The implication here is that by making things accessible to children through their “engagement zone” or reach, children could better understand aspects of the environment, making these places less fearful or challenging in a bad sense.

If we extend this idea of the “engagement zone” to all people in all environments — meaning that accessibility through touch becomes the connection that enables engagement – we can make our environments more engaging. Perhaps we can also extend this idea even further into “hands-on” forms of education to make learning even more fun, regardless of age or ability?

Senior Living in the Kennett (Pennsylvania) Area: Implications for Planning and Zoning

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

While seniors (over the age of 55) are a growing population nationwide, according to the last US Census (2000), seniors are “disappearing” from the Kennett Borough. The greater Kennett InterGen Coalition was created to find out why the Borough was losing its seniors and to find ways to encourage seniors to stay in the community.

Studies of small towns such as Kennett Borough indicate that one of the most important components for a high quality of life is the effort of seniors in the community. Rice and Elder (1999) reveal that one of the major indicators of the quality of life in small towns is the community’s appearance. Rice’s and Elder’s investigations note that such communities usually rely on high volunteer populations of senior citizens who contribute to such efforts. Hanson and Emlet (2006) further report that seniors contribute with time, knowledge, skills, and finances to the well-being of their communities. The literature points out that those small towns which have few seniors are those that fail to thrive, for the reason that seniors are major contributors to the community, playing a critical role in its well-being and vitality.

So, why are our seniors disappearing from small towns? Although the research literature demonstrates that older citizens prefer to remain in their homes and “age-in-place,” there are problems that encourage seniors to seek long-term care solutions. In 2009, the InterGen Coalition, under a grant from Kendal at Longwood, commissioned the geriatric research firm of Jean Moreau and Associates to survey the greater Kennett area to obtain answers to this question. From this survey, administered to seniors who had incomes over $35,000 in the greater Kennett area, and to seniors who had incomes under this amount who lived only in Kennett Borough, we learned that the majority of respondents preferred to age-in-place. The problems seniors identified with living in the greater Kennett area included lack of sufficient transportation, access to senior services, insufficient alternatives for housing, and difficulties with the maintenance of house and garden. Of these problems, that of senior housing alternatives is perhaps the most critical for keeping people in the community. In Kennett Borough, for example, the majority of the existing housing stock is old and in need of constant care. Area seniors reported that home maintenance was becoming increasingly burdensome and was one of the major reasons why they would consider moving out of their home.

There are few options for seniors who are looking for housing with services in the greater Kennett area. Currently, there are 55 Plus “communities” (for people who are over age 55) and nursing homes in Kennett and New Garden townships, with nothing in between. There are few, if any, provisions for senior apartment living, group homes, or congregate care. The nearest HUD-sponsored affordable housing — Luther House — is in Jennersville. While many residents of Luther House come from Kennett Square and acknowledge that they are within easy driving range, it is far enough away to prevent seniors from investing time and energy in their old community. Furthermore, with the construction of Luther House and nearby Jenner’s Pond, Jennersville has built new shopping, businesses, and educational institutions (including expansion of the YMCA) that serve both the senior and the community at large.

What are the major planning and zoning issues that are barriers for senior housing? In our two years of growing as a coalition of nonprofits and governmental officials, the InterGen Coalition has identified four such barriers: transportation, parking, location in the community, and the provision of other types of uses outside of residential associated with senior housing.

Transportation throughout all of southern Chester County is a major issue. While there are two forms of public transportation – Scoot, a public bus running along Old Baltimore Pike from Rte 52 to Lincoln University, and Rover, a reservation-only bus serving seniors and people with disabilities – these do not appear to fulfill the needs of seniors because they do not provide either regular schedules throughout the day (Scoot) or are unpredictable with regard to pickup after appointments. Also, although it has been recognized that walking trails and sidewalks provide opportunities for recreation, they also can provide increased mobility to nearby destinations. The majority of the townships outside of the Borough of Kennett Square, however, do not provide sidewalks or pedestrian/bicycle paths for leisure purposes, never mind pedestrian access to destinations, such as schools, stores or churches. The InterGen Coalition has begun investigating how non-profit organizations can supplement transportation needs, especially in more rural areas. With respect to trail systems, this can be an opportunity for the Kennett Area Regional Planning Commission to explore prime locations for senior housing that has walking access.

It has been demonstrated, throughout a number of communities nationally, that senior developments and traditional residential development do not have the same parking needs. Why, then, should they have the same parking requirements? Communities in Southern California participated in a 2006 study regarding parking and found that, depending upon the age group of the senior residents, the parking needs were usually reduced to one space per dwelling unit (rather than the more traditional 2/du). A few of the towns pointed out, however, in more upscale congregate care facilities, that more residents held onto their cars, even though they rarely drove them. For housing for older and less wealthy seniors, however, the reduced parking has worked satisfactorily. Locally, Luther House, in Jennersville, uses this ratio for residents 62 years old and above.

Locations for senior housing have traditionally relied on availability of land and how well it could be developed. The InterGen Coalition has been looking at key components for bringing together residents — places for people to meet and talk with one another are important for all communities. These take a range of shapes from cafes to community centers, but all provide social connections, especially near senior housing. In the case of Kennett Borough, which already has a library, three bookstores, and a number of churches, stores and restaurants, the opportunity for senior housing is ripe with anticipation. Using the Jennersville model for less dense areas of the townships where public transportation may not be available, locating senior housing near institutions such as schools, hospital/medical centers and churches, as well as shopping, can provide more mobility and independence to people who may no longer be able to drive.

Multiple uses on a single site are frowned upon in local planning and zoning documents, mostly because these complicate parking requirements. From an anti-sprawl standpoint, however, multiple uses in senior housing – such as residential and meeting space for activities such as a senior center, special medical clinics, adult day care, etc. – provide built-in opportunities for a variety of senior-related activities. It also provides an opportunity for the adjacent community to use the facility as a community center or local destination.

In conclusion, modifications to local planning and zoning ordinances that allow for senior housing not only provides opportunities for our seniors to remain in their communities, but also improves the quality of the community for all.


Cvitkovich, Y. and Wister, A. (2001). “The importance of transportation and prioritization of environmental needs to sustain well-being among older adults,” Environment and Behavior, vol. 33, no. 6, pp. 809 – 829.

Hanson, D. and Emlet, C. A. (2006). “Assessing a community’s elder friendliness: A case example of the AdvantAge Care Initiative,” Community Health, vol. 29, no. 4, pp. 266 – 278.

Kim, J. and Kaplan, R. (2004). “Physical and psychological factors in sense of community,” Environment and Behavior, vol. 36, no. 3, pp. 313-340.

Lawton, M. P. (1977). “An ecological theory of aging applied to elderly housing,” Environments and Aging, vol. 31, no. 3, pp. 8 – 10.

Leith, K. H. (2006). “Home is where the heart is…or is it? A phenomenological exploration of the meaning of home for older women in congregate housing,” Journal of Aging Studies, vol. 20, pp/ 317 – 333.

Rice, T. W. and Miller, D.N. (1999). “The correlates of small town upkeep,” Environment and Behavior, vol. 31, no. 6, pp. 821-837.

Ryan, V.; Terry, A.L.; & Woebke, D. (1995). Sigma: A profile of Iowa’s rural communities,” Iowa State University Rural Development Initiative, at

Sugihara, S. and Evans, G.W. (2000). “Place Attachment and social support at continuing care retirement communities,” Environment and Behavior, vol. 34, no. 5, pp. 561 – 581.

Engaging People Through Wildlife

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

February 11, 2010

Here in Kennett Square, we’ve been digging out from the second snowstorm this week. While snow is great fun for kids (and the kids in adults), it’s also fun for pets. My son and I brought in a big pot of snow and made small snowballs for our new kitten. She would put her paws into the pot and quickly leap backwards. Was it too cold? If it was, it didn’t stop her from putting her paws back into it to swat at the stack of snowballs. We put the pot in the bathtub where it melted into water for houseplants…and maybe, some kitten drinking water.

Take a walk. Don’t wait to dig out a path. Put on your tallest boots and go out to look at the world. Can you see any animal footprints? Why or why not? Where did the animals go? Where are they hiding? This is a good thing to check out with children – and help build shelters for small animals for times like this. Matthew and I walked around, looking for signs of life in the snow. We found freshly-opened yellow blossoms of the Chinese witch hazel (Hamamelis x ‘Arnold Promise’) and winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum).

Break out the food. The snow last night covered most of the fruits and berries that were still not eaten by wildlife. This time of year, the winter freezes finally “cure” winterberries so they are sufficiently palatable to birds. In previous winters, cedar waxwings and robins were munching on winterberries and hawthorns. This week, however, snowplows have covered over every bit of winterberry and the snow is still clinging to the hawthorns.

When the food we’ve planted for wildlife goes scarce, it’s time to break out the bird feeders. Consider breaking out the cinnamon-scented pinecones you bought from last Christmas and stuffing these with peanut butter and birdseed. You can also stuff the peanut butter – birdseed mix into the mesh bags that carry clementines and onions if you can’t find pinecones. Hang them in trees or from the porch roof where you can look out a window and watch the birds feeding. What an antidote to cabin fever!

Pine Cone Birdfeeder Recipe*

What you’ll need:

  • Pine cone
  • Paper plate
  • Knife
  • Smooth peanut butter (don’t used reduced fat – the birds need the fat in winter)
  • Birdseed
  • Ribbon or yarn
  • Scissors

How to make it:

  1. Cut a long length of yarn or ribbon to hang the bird feeder.
  2. Tie the ribbon in a knot around the pine cone near the top (about 3 sections down).
  3. Tie a knot in the end of the ribbon.
  4. Use the knife to get a large clump of peanut butter on the paper plate.
  5. Use the knife to spread peanut butter inside the pine cone and around the edges.
  6. Sprinkle the birdseed over the pine cone.
  7. Roll the pine cone in the birdseed that is on the plate.
  8. Hang the bird feeder on the tree.
  9. Enjoy watching the birds eat their treat!

(*Recipe adapted from

Designing for Special Needs

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

My focus on landscape design for children with special needs started the year after the birth of my son. But this was entirely coincidental. A colleague recommended me to the Director of St. Edmond’s Home for Children in Radnor Township, Pennsylvania, in 1999. While I came to the job as a design professional, I was quick to learn from the parents who knew about their children’s needs and interests. One parent, in particular, was Carrie Quade, who used her creative talents to stimulate her daughter’s interests. Carrie is a sculptor who not only made indoor pieces at St. Edmond’s Home, such as a large, life-like tree that engaged children in the multipurpose room, but also mobile water tables with pop-out plastic tubs that supported an array of tactile objects – wet or dry – that could be used both indoors and out. Carrie also spent much time taking her daughter around the grounds and knew where it was easier to push a wheelchair and still invite engagement with the natural elements on the site. This led Carrie and me to collaborate on pathway systems that could be, in themselves, fun for the kids in wheelchairs, where they could roll through a variety of planted outdoor “rooms” and learn about nature in the process.

I designed the gardens at St. Edmond’s to stimulate the children through engaging their senses: scent, touch, sound and even taste were considered as well as visual aspects such as color. The plants were also selected to bring birds and insects into the garden. Being in deer territory, plants were selected to not be as palatable to the four-legged critters. But the staff reported that the children were delighted when deer or other animals walked along the pathways or when birds nibbled on berries next to the windows of the multipurpose room. Kids (and adults, by the way) become engaged when they have access to activities. Here, being able to see animals close up – right through the bedroom window – engaged the children at St. Edmond’s Home! As the kids rode their wheelchairs along the pathways, they could also reach out and touch a variety of plants, savoring their textures and fragrances.

These same principles guided the design of our home landscape. Before my son was diagnosed with autism at age five, we knew he was different. He had high interest in certain objects or subjects and little or no interest in everything else. He rarely spoke, and certainly not in complete sentences, until he went to school. My husband and I knew he was interested in animals because we observed him stop what he was doing to watch birds, squirrels, or other creatures in the garden. When we moved to another house on the other side of town, my husband and I discussed bringing nature up close for our son’s benefit. I started designing the garden as a wildlife habitat, perhaps more so to engage my son and immerse him in nature, as well as to provide food, shelter and water for a variety of creatures (many we never even dreamed would live here).

In future blogs, I’ll share (and discuss with you, if you write or call) different ways we used to engage our son in the world, especially in the outdoor environment, and ways he has gotten us to engage as well.