Gardening for the Blind

Since moving to Somerset UK we have made many new friends and acquaintances, everyone has been very welcoming – it is a lovely part of the country to retire to.

One particular gentleman we have met is nearly 90, almost blind, but copes very well living alone. I couldn’t refuse when he asked me to give a talk on gardening at the Club for the Blind he attends – but gardening for the blind what could I say?
I was asked to contact Hillary Bolitho MBE just honoured by the Queen for long service in the West Country and amongst many vital roles, she was a Volunteer and now Chairman of Chard and Ilminster Blind Club for 27 years who asked me to give a Talk to the club.
I thought it an idea to learn more about how poorly and non sighted gardeners might be further helped and encouraged to garden more satisfactorily so I contacted the organisation Thrive. I must say they were very helpful and gave me a few tips to help me on my way.

Just before the talk I collected together some plant samples of sweat peas ,pennisetum grass and a mixture of herbs These were chosen mainly for their fragrance and texture and feel, and took these along, which broke the ice when I passed them around.Many in the audience stated how much they loved the sound of grasses blowing in the wind.!

My father-in-law was very poorly sighted and I know that yellow was one of the colours that stood out for him – so if you have a friend or relative with little sight, try to help them plan their gardens with a succession of yellow, flowers, from a host of golden daffodils in spring to late flowering chrysanthemums, with their own particular autumnal smell.White and blue colours are also more visible.

I also learned a few tips from members of the club. One lady wraps brightly carried carrier bags around the handles of her fork and trowel so as not to lose them – something I have decided to copy as I have lost count of the small tools I have misplaced when gardening.Keeping the walkway free from obstruction such as plants hanging over was important and a yellow marking along the edging is often used as a good safety measure .

Another lady had a washing line placed in her garden to she could use her sense of touch to lead her safely around the various paths

I was very impressed with the people I met and the interest they showed in something that becomes increasingly difficult for them to cope with but they do ,and still enjoy gardening .

If you have a friend or neighbour who struggles this way, I am sure they would welcome just a little help in keeping paths clear and overhanging branches and twigs to a minimum so they can make the best advantage of what we are so lucky to be able to take for granted.

Tony Arnold