Color Life Brilliant at Seattle Children’s PlayGarden

Who doesn't love a rainbow

Scavenging a floral rainbow at the Seattle Children’s PlayGarden. Photo: Rick Knight

Scavenging a floral rainbow at the Seattle Children’s PlayGarden. Photo: Rick Knight

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.

Dinosaur topiaries and blossoms having BIG fun at Seattle Children’s PlayGarden. Photo: Rick Knight

Dinosaur topiaries and blossoms having BIG fun at Seattle Children’s PlayGarden. Photo: Rick Knight

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.

A mini urban farm prospers in the bed of a ruby red truck. Photo: Debra Prinzing

A mini urban farm prospers in the bed of a ruby red truck. Photo: Debra Prinzing

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.

Flying high in a yellow swing designed to support special needs kids. Photo: Rick Knight

Flying high in a yellow swing designed to support special needs kids. Photo: Rick Knight

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.

Tickling toes with water-play and flowers. Photo: Rick Knight

Tickling toes with water-play and flowers. Photo: Rick Knight