Shaggy green dinosaurs parade through borders bursting with perennials and flowering herbs. Nearby, a sunny yellow swing grants a child temporary wings against a brilliant blue sky, and squeals of laughter, high-pitched giggles, and sounds of splashing water fill the warm Seattle summer afternoon. Overhead, a living roof planted with tawny grasses emerging from a carpet of succulents is buzzing with contented honeybee hives. Ducks, chickens, and rabbits round out the lively menagerie. Welcome to the Seattle Children’s PlayGarden.
The Seattle Children’s PlayGarden is a huge breath of fresh air packed into a city park of just average size. It’s a place where kids of all abilities— kids on two feet, kids with walkers, kids in wheelchairs, kids who communicate differently—together with their families and friends, can interact with nature, learn, explore, and develop a sense of wonder and independence.
This unique environment has been designed to enhance the cognitive, motor and social skills of children with special needs and physical limitations while keeping these sometimes fragile kids safe and supported. Such was the vision in 2002 of PlayGarden Executive Director, Liz Bullard, a speech/language pathologist who wanted more for her young clients than a life dominated by appointments and office visits.
Since that time, this ambitious undertaking has been realized by the creative and collaborative efforts of a team of dedicated professionals and hardworking volunteers committed to the power and balm of gardens. Pacific Horticulture board member, Wendy Welch is PlayGarden creative director and lead garden designer whose past projects include installing a butterfly border embraced by an almost 100-foot long Portuguese laurel (Prunus lusitanica) hedge pruned into a giant caterpillar, and—this being Seattle after all—a rainwater capture system and accompanying bioswale planting. As days lengthen toward summer, work has begun on an all-access tree house fort and Bongobenny Quintet: a Musical Fence by world-renowned sculpture and sound artist, Trimpin debuts in early June.