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Touch-and-Smell Garden to Serve Blind on Lower East Side

By Serena Solomon | December 6, 2013 9:18am
 The Sara D. Roosevelt Park Coalition is planning a garden filled with scents and textures.
The Sara D. Roosevelt Park Coalition is planning a garden filled with scents and textures.
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DNAinfo/Serena Solomon

LOWER EAST SIDE — The flowers at a new Lower East Side garden won't just look beautiful — they'll also captivate visitors with their scent and texture, organizers said.

The group that manages Sara D. Roosevelt Park is planning a "touch-and-scent" garden for the visually impaired, using honey-scented buddleia, chocolate mint herbs, President Roosevelt Peonies and other plants to help enable all New Yorkers to enjoy the green space.

"The idea for us is how to make this place as accessible as possible," said Kathleen "K" Webster, president of the Sara D. Roosevelt Park Coalition, which is made up of residents who act as guardians of the park. "[We asked] what community groups are not being included?"

Webster hopes to plant the touch-and-scent garden in existing garden beds on the north side of Delancey Street near Forsyth Street. Small paths with wheelchair-friendly surfaces will also make the garden more accessible, Webster said.

Using a $2,000 grant, the coalition has planned an irrigation system and cleared out trash from the garden beds — including a few knives, a reminder of the park's past as a meetup spot for drug dealers, Webster said.

A landscape architect is working with the group to design the space and determine the plants that will thrive there.

"The difficult part is finding plants that can grow in the shade that have a lot of scent," Webster said.

The coalition is taking inspiration from the "Fragrance Garden" at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which is also designed for the visually impaired.

No timeline has been set for the garden to open, but Webster hopes to build it one piece at a time.

"We just start with what we can start with," she said.