The garden is your basic square, 45’ x 46’, anchored at the southwest corner by a big pine tree, frilled around the edges with a few flowerbeds, punctuated in the northern third by two stone pillars with a trellis over the top that supports a big grapevine, and a bit of a deck in the northwest corner that opens out from the house. There are some vegetable beds on the northern, uphill side, in which we grow snow peas (already planted this year!), pole beans, basil, and tomatoes; we’ve almost never managed to produce any zucchini. There’s a tiny little area with roses, mostly old wizened things that are largely reduced to rootstock, but with one lovely yellow-blooming one and a nice red, whatever their names are, long forgotten. We’ve carefully refrained from maintaining the probably fifty-year-old white lattice fence that surrounds the whole garden—it was there when we moved in in the late 1970’s, and it was old then. Now it’s propped up with a couple of boards wedged in from the top of the fence to the ground—Brooke has always resisted any suggestion that these be removed. He likes the funkiness, and so do I. And oh, yes, the central part of the garden is almost completely ordinary grass, punctuated frequently with dandelions. This is definitely not a designer garden.
So the question is how to get Brooke into his garden, and have it be both accessible in the huge motorized wheelchair and still his garden. Here’s the basic problem: the north side, where the house is, is (casually) measured as 37” higher than the central part of the garden. Not surprising; we live on a hill, like all of the Avenues, and we’re lucky that the drop isn’t any greater than this. However, wheelchair slope requirements published by the disability organization we’ve been working with are an 8.3% grade, or 1 foot of ramp per 1 inch of drop. That means a 37-foot ramp needs to be somewhere in this garden (myself, I see it curving around like the DNA inside a cell), and while I’m told that a big power wheelchair like the one he’s got would have no trouble zooming down or up something steeper, if one ever progresses to an ordinary arm-operated wheelchair steep grades are really a challenge. (Mostly we’ve thought of being prepared for anything as being prepared for anything bad, but of course we should be prepared for something good too.) Various folks have already been by to take a look at the challenge the grade requirement present, and I must say the suggestions so far are extraordinary—clearly many heads are better than one, especially the kinds of heads you all are. If you’re in the neighborhood, feel free to come and take a look at the garden, even if I’m not home, and hatch ideas, either about how to make a garden or what plants could be put in it when Brooke comes home, probably still a couple of months away--but things will still be green by then.