The Enabling Garden: Programs for Individuals with Special Needs

The Riverwood Conservancy’s Enabling Garden is a hands-on learning environment that’s fully accessible and innovatively designed for people of all ages who live with physical, cognitive, and/or mental health challenges. The Enabling Garden won first place in the National Garden Bureau’s 2015 Growing for Futures grant program and was named 2015 Best Garden by the Toronto Star.

What is Horticulture Therapy?

The Enabling Garden utilizes horticulture therapy – the use of plants and gardening-related activities to enhance an individual’s mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Horticulture therapy gives participants a sense of accomplishment; develops their social skills, confidence, and self-esteem; aids with strength, mobility, and hand-eye coordination; and diminishes isolation.

Enabling Garden Features

– A and T frame planters allow participants using wheelchairs, walkers, or scooters access to the bed without having to twist their bodies.
– Raised beds create access for people who find bending, stooping, or reaching difficult, and wide edges provide seating for those who cannot stand for long periods of time.
– Taller planters with wide edges provide support for participants who want to improve their balance, strength, and stamina.
– Tactile elements like native herbs, flowers, vegetables, dwarf evergreens, rocks, and fossils give participants who may have challenges accessing Riverwood’s trails a chance to connect with nature up close.

"The Riverwood Conservancy staff were excellent, always providing answers to our questions prior to the visit. Our tasks were interesting and appropriate to our group, and our instructor was so supportive, kind, and considerate of our special needs students."

Nature-Focused Programs

Outdoor and indoor practical nature programs held in a fully accessible learning space with adaptive tools. Activities include seed starting, flower and vegetable planting, garden care, birding, and tree and plant identification.

Emotional Health-Focused Programs

These workshops are customized for the specific needs and abilities of each group, and are ideal for addressing anxiety, depression, substance use, trauma, and bereavement. Participants are given opportunities to connect and reflect with nature to enhance their emotional wellbeing.

Garden to Kitchen Cooking Program

Participants learn about where their food comes from, how to make healthy food choices at the supermarket, and help prepare nutritious meals with a professional chef. This twice-monthly program runs from October through April in partnership with Longo’s Applewood, where the workshops take place.

Customized Individual Programs

Tailored sessions with our Enabling Garden Coordinator to fit individual needs and interests, and to align with Ontario Minstry of Education and Regional School Board goals.

Group Fees

Half-day programs (1 – 2.5 hours): $120 for groups of 12 or less, $10 for each additional participant

Full-day experiential workshops (includes all materials and snacks): $400

Garden to Kitchen Cooking Classes: $130

Note that there is no cost for caregivers or assistants to attend Enabling Garden programs.

We would be happy to provide a full-day program or customize a program for your organization’s needs. Please contact us to discuss a tailored program.