Ask Elaine: Arboretum Accessibility

Dear Elaine,

My mother has difficulty walking. I was wondering if there are places at the Laurelwood Arboretum that would accommodate special needs people?


Dear Lorrie,

Laurelwood Arboretum has garden areas that are accessible for special needs people. The “first floor” or lower level of the arboretum is relatively flat and provides handicap parking in both the Vail and Pines Lake Drive parking lot. Our roads are compacted gravel, bumpy but with the ability to serve the needs of wheelchair users and walkers.

The Native Plant Demonstration Garden has paving to allow for exploration and education of how homeowners can support the environment with landscape choices that include plants from Passaic County, New Jersey and the East Coast. The Education Greenhouse, next to the Native Plant Garden is also wheelchair accessible — wide door openings and low greenhouse benches. The handicap parking spot, in front of the greenhouse, connects to a cement walkway that goes to the front door of the Knippenberg Center for Education. Once inside the KCE, the restrooms are handicapped accessible.

Other special garden areas on the “lower level” include the new Veale Garden with wet-site tolerant plants to provide year-round color and wildlife habits for birds, mammals and amphibians. We are developing a path that leads from the Pines Lake Drive parking lot to the viewing area into the garden. You may also want to visit the Founders’ Garden that honors the nine volunteers who established the 501(c)(3) named “Friends of Laurelwood Arboretum,” the organization that manages this 30 acre public township park. The serene pebble garden is surrounded by specimen evergreens and azaleas.

In addition, don’t miss the Sensory Garden near the Vail parking lot. This unique, barrier-free garden allows visitors of all abilities to experience nature. Wide pathways can be negotiated by visitors. Raised flower beds encourage the discovery and use of all five senses — touch, taste, smell, sight and sound. The “learning circle” has been used for educational programs, contemplation and weddings!

The Sensory Garden was funded by the Passaic County Open Space Commission, the Lions Clubs of Wayne and West Milford, the Township of Wayne and Friends of Laurelwood Arboretum. The garden is recreated anew each year and maintained by the horticultural staff and arboretum volunteers.

This year, the plants in the TOUCH quadrant include many jade plants and other succulents, and licorice plant. The TASTE quadrant has sage, pineapple sage, nasturtium, stevia, mint rue, rosemary, parsley, cinnamon basil and thyme. The SIGHT quadrant contains flamingo flower, geranium ‘Martha Washington,’ dahlia, 4 o’clocks, sea holly and flowering maple. In the SMELL quadrant, there is Vick’s plant, lemon verbena, geranium ‘Curly Russell,’ heliotrope, and Cuban oregano. Go past the babbling fountain and listen for songbirds to experience the sense of SOUND. Inhale the pleasing scent of LAVENDER as you pass the bed. On the other side of the path is the TROPICAL bed with coleus, banana, dracaena, plumbago, vitex, canna, elephant ear and datura. The POLLINATOR bed has Queen Anne’s lace, dill, Mexican butterfly weed (blood flower) and goldenrod.  The plants in the beds are labeled to help you identify you favorite ones. In autumn, many of these valuable plants are brought into the greenhouse for winter protection.

There is much to see in the “ground floor” level of Laurelwood. Please stop in and visit the “best kept secret in Wayne.”

Happy Autumn.

Elaine Fogerty, Executive Director

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