It was a brilliant day. The sun shone. The bees buzzed. And SSW members got free hot drinks and doughnuts. Bob Smytherman, Worthing Town Crier and SSW President, dressed smartly in black hat and blue satin tunic, began official proceedings by ringing his town crier’s bell. ‘Oyez. Oyez,’ he cried. ‘Mr Mayor. Ladies and gentlemen. Boys and girls. Welcome to sunny Worthing for our amazing Sight Support Worthing’s Sensory Garden official launch.’ The Mayor, Jon Roser, dutifully cut the inaugural blue-ribbon to heartfelt applause.
The summer weather and a rainy July made sure the Sensory Garden, opposite the seafront, had bloomed. The kitchen herbs, like feisty cat mint, thyme, Jerusalem sage, rosemary, green ginger, and fennel grow vibrantly among household names like fuchsias, lavender, geraniums, poppies, and petunias. There’s plenty of exotic plants too, like amazon mist grass, mountain sandwort, and Babiana-Stricta, which you’re likely to know only if you’re green fingered. For those of you selecting the Sensory Garden as your Mastermind subject (or are just curious), we’ve included a comprehensive list of the featured plants below. One of the most sensory is the lemon balm mint (try rubbing it between your fingers), which bursts with a pungent zesty citrus. The herb has made a spirited second home for itself among the white stones around the fountain. The abundance of plants suggests replanting was easy but, as our before and after photos show, there was an awful lot for the team, spearheaded by SSW Chair of Trustees Cherry Ward, and Adur & Worthing Council to do.
In receipt of only basic maintenance for more than a decade, there were only a few shrubs growing back in 2019, when they began. The team retained some of the old plants, like the hebes in the rockery, the blue sea holly and two myrtle bushes, but the vast majority are new. The exposed location of the garden made planting a challenge. Some plants were chosen specifically, with an eye on the climate, because they’re drought tolerant. That’s not to say there weren’t a few surprise success stories. Some plants strongly expected to perish proved their mettle and thrived, like the foxgloves and hollyhocks. A bigger surprise was discovering that each plant needed a UK passport to prove it had lived in the UK for at least two years and didn’t harbour disease. So, all told, it was far from straightforward. And then there was a pandemic.
As a community garden the team are keen for people to take cuttings to use in their own green spaces. The bronze fountain at the garden’s centre takes the form of the Greek god Triton. Featuring the body of a man and the tail of a fish, he stands upright holding a fish wriggling in each hand. The fountain has been fitted by the Council with new pumps, which provide the tranquil sound of trickling water. One SSW member said it reminded them of children playing in the summer. Radiating outwards from the fountain towards the protective fence are railway sleepers imbedded in shards of slate, representing the hands of a clock. Each tip is labelled with a golden number for the appropriate hour. “The colour contrast,” remarked one SSW member, “marks out the different zones. It’s enclosed, but accessible, with no steps. It’s not just a green canvas, it has texture.” Cultivating variety has been the goal to create, said Cherry, “a place of interest and intrigue”. Playful and interactive elements are included, like the concealed cast stone snails in the rockery and the red spotted illuminating mushroom sculptures.
A spirit of collaboration has flourished with the plants. From the children on the first spring planting day running riot with handfuls of seeds, to the graft of SSW volunteers like Andrew, Jane and Barry, as well as the rangers, The Camps Coffee Co. who kindly donated our launch day refreshments, and the Rampion community grant won by our ace fundraiser, Jackie Brownlee; all have had a crucial part to play. The grant is commemorated by the eye-catching circular shaped and multicoloured ‘Wind Spinner’ windmill twirling in the breeze. If everything on display suggests the job is done, well you’re in for a surprise. The park benches are soon to be updated, more bulbs set to be planted, a new sound feature installed and areas are to be textured with bark from materials shredded by the rangers in other public gardens.
There’s plenty for wildlife too. Six willow, salix and acer trees have been planted in the raised brick outer borders as part of the Queen’s Green Canopy project. Add to that bird feeders for the winter, two wooden insect hotels (dubbed Buggingham Palace and Wingsor Castle), plants to attract butterflies and ‘beebombs’ for bees and you have a truly multidimensional garden. “Green spaces are so important for everyone at the moment,” said the mayor, casting a handful of seeds. ‘’It’s nice to see people working on it.’’ Work that is set to continue apace.
The Sensory Garden is permanently open. If you would like help visiting the garden, please call us on 01903 235782. We’d also love you to get involved with the maintenance of the garden. If you’d like to, please call us on the same number.
- The Triton fountain
- The Queen’s Green Canopy project
- Rampion offshore wind farm
- An A-Z of the plants in the garden
- Our feature length article in the Worthing Herald