MOVE FOR CARE BLOG: How designers Francisca and Freya are helping our sensory gardens become a reality


C&C’s ongoing Move for Care initiative, which ends at the end of February, is aiming to create stunning new sensory gardens at each of our four care homes. But what is a sensory garden, and what will it look like once installed? We caught up with Francisca and Freya who discuss how they got involved with this project and what their inspirations were for their garden designs.

Francisca Castro- Gardener Designer for Homemead and Cecil Court

“I am an occupational therapist, and, in my profession, I provide an environment for my clients which offers the opportunity to enjoy the outside spaces. I have been inspired by working in nature that uses all the senses, which will help the care residents heal and recover in the sensory gardens.

“My previous sensory creating experience was when I had built an educational rocket ship outdoor structure for children with disabilities, which helped them explore and learn through play as well as use their imagination. In addition, it was to also teach them about science and the universe. With this experience, I applied the importance of structures and how they support all our five senses, as well as transferring this knowledge to the care home’s sensory gardens.

"With the gardens, I have added a few other elements. The two homes (Homemead and Cecil Court) are different and special in their own way. Cecil Court has two gardens – one where all the outdoor activities like Zumba takes place, and the other at the back, where there is a relaxing and peaceful environment.

"Homemead has a smaller garden. I therefore added more details to the garden to make it intimate. Both homes have points of interest that loop around as a sequence to help with some residents that have dementia to work with loss and disorientation. The sensory gardens will also help with exercises and have handrails to allow for independence.

Homemead Garden concept

"The gardens have also been created to attract wildlife like birds and insects that help the eco life. I have included a space for growing vegetables and fruit so it will become not just a sensory garden but a working garden too. This will help the residents develop their ‘green fingers’, getting busy harvesting as well as building their self-esteem.

"A reminisce wall (indicated at point 2 on the below image) will be added in the gardens. This will help the residents with rekindling memories and emotions. They can add anything to the wall so that it gives them a sense of belonging. This is my favourite component of the gardens. I designed the gardens that not only invite fauna and flora but also the local elements of London like the London Underground Tube signs.

Homemead Garden concept (2)

"When designing the gardens, we needed to ensure comfort and safety was implemented.

"For example, by raising the garden beds as they can do gardening more ergonomically and therefore, allowing the residents to do it comfortably, should their mobility be limited or if they are in a wheelchair.

"The garden has not just been designed for the residents but for the care workers and family visits too. Care workers can use it as a tool to help when taking care of a resident. They can also enjoy it during their spare time too. Family can visit the resident in the gardens and make their visits more enjoyable.

Raised garden beds

"As C&C is raising money for the sensory gardens with the Move for Care step challenge, I am also joining the event by adding my steps to the overall total. I think this is a great and creative idea to raise funds for the sensory gardens and I have thoroughly enjoyed supporting C&C in this journey."

Freya Willets– Compton House Garden designer  

"A few years ago, I attended training with Thrive about social and therapeutic horticulture that can help with people’s mental and overall well-being. So, when C&C approached me about designing the Compton garden, I thought it would be a fantastic opportunity for me to utilise what I had learnt and gain experience.

"What I have learnt when designing a sensory garden, there are two important aspects:

  1. To create an immersive experience: featuring different textures, movement, and water features picking up on all senses.

  2. The concept of gentle attention: when we are in a space that is full of little details, the reflect is therapeutic.

"With this design, I tried to work with current elements that are present in the garden and make cost-effective changes to the current environment.

Compton Sensory Garden Design Overview

"There will be a cost in where there is a semi-circle of paving, we will need to add more surface with the aim of making it more wheelchair and resident friendly. We will add raised planters so that residents can access and do gardening. A little construction would be needed but it would add value for the residents in activating all five senses and enjoy the garden.

Wheelchair friendly and raised veg/herb beds for the residents to enjoy

"Anyone who has spent time in beautiful green spaces will understand the benefits, from busy thoughts to a calm and restorative feeling. The benefits have been well documented with gardens and green spaces improving mental and physical well-being.

"My favourite part of designing the garden at Compton is imagining it enhancing the experience of the residents living there, their loved ones visiting them and care workers too. I tried to use cost-effective changes that could make the biggest impact as much as possible. I also found the fun in problem-solving and being creative with cost-effective designs. The best part of the garden design is from the envisioning part to the design being implemented, which is what I am looking forward to.

"So to help raise funds for the gardens to be implemented, I am joining the step challenge of Move for Care! I have even asked a few friends to join too 😊."

To get more information or to donate to support our new sensory gardens, go to C&C’s Move for Care site. The step challenge has been extended until the end of February.

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