Written by Louise Reid
Engaging the Senses when Exploring
As with all seasons, we are in love with our garden, woodland and fields this Autumn— amazed at all there is to see and all that is there to engage the senses. The colour palette is as diverse as it is in summer. Those families who are with us for sessions spend as much time as possible outside – roaming, exploring, gardening and trying the many creative activities available here.
October at Dandelion Time
This month, there’s an astonishing plant at Elmscroft that I want to share with you. Our Garden Manager, Michelle, says she has never seen this plant anywhere but Dandelion Time. She has eagerly been waiting for the berries to ripen. These are porcelain berries or it’s official name Amur Peppervine. Worth the wait we agreed. Gentle peacock pastel shades – purples, blues and greens.
Earlier in the year, as it unfurls new leaves, you would presume a vine was growing. It is related to the grapevine family. In the summer this climbing plant flowers with quite unassuming blooms, yet has a vital role to play. In flower, the vine is buzzing with bees, to the point it seems to vibrate. Moving into Autumn, it yields these beautiful berries.
Like Michelle, this is the first time I’ve seen this unusual plant. The berries ripen from white to pink, lavender, turquoise—then blue and black as they age. More unusually, each bunch hosts different colours like a painter’s palette. Although the berries are inedible for us, they provide a great food source for local birds and squirrels.
This part of the garden is next to the well-maintained and weeded vegetable furrows. The old wall they are growing on reminds me of the Secret Garden. I wonder if there is a door buried behind this beautiful vined curtain?
It made me think of the children who come to Dandelion Time and their explorations in the garden. I imagine the children with their families, thinking at first it was a huge elderberry growing over the wall.
As I got closer, with the sunlight shining, I was fascinated by these Willy Wonka like berries and their remarkable array of colours. I could imagine our children finding these and being entranced by their magic. It’s so important to engage with nature and to immerse your senses, imagination and connection to the natural world. It is vital for our health and well being.
My hobby is crafting and I am looking forward to recreating this natural beauty using wool to needle felt. We could also create them with our families using wet felting—a popular therapeutic activity. Our activities are all chosen for their calming, hands on nature.
This is why our natural environment is so exciting. The gardens lead to the engagement of our senses. Imagination opens us up to ways of expressing our joy at finding organic treasures such as these Porcelain Berries. Our families become absorbed in our grounds in various activities. This connection with nature enables children to heal, to grow, to gain confidence and self belief.
So a sunny Autumnal day and a new plant discovery has reinforced why the Dandelion Time methodology is so successful. For those who come to sessions, those who work here, and those who love nature and care about sustainability and the environment.
Michelle loves this plant so much she already has some growing for our Fair next year!
Gardening tips: a quite invasive vine creeper, but with proper management, it is definitely worthy of joining your garden for colour and utility. The vines climb by means of twining tendrils. Plant them near a sturdy supporting structure such as a fence, tree, trellis or arbour. The supporting structure needs to be sturdy as the vine can grow 10 to 20 feet long and become quite heavy. The other good thing about this plant is it does not require lots of watering. They tolerate hard pruning and it’s advisable to remove seedlings that sprout to keep it from taking over—although I would love a garden full!
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