Bernheim celebrates spring with the opening of a new garden

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Opening ceremony Saturday is part of BloomFest

By Becca Owsley

Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest will celebrate its annual celebration of spring Saturday with BloomFest and the opening of its new Edible Garden.


The celebration will include local artisans, live music, a farmers market and garden short topic speakers. The annual spring sale of plants native to the region takes place during this event.

For kids, Bernheim plans a garden fairy parade and the opportunity to construct a fairy house and other crafts. The children get a construction permit and find supplies in the marketplace needed to build the fairy house.

This year, children will have to incorporate a garden to the building to honor the new Edible Garden, which serves as the centerpiece of this year’s BloomFest. A ribbon cutting for the garden is set for 10:30 a.m. Saturday.

“We are constantly building gateways so people can connect more deeply with nature,” Claude Stephens, director of outreach and regenerative design, said of the garden.

The garden is designed to be self sustaining and is an applicant for the Living Building Challenge, a program with rigorous green design standards, Stephens said.

The Edible Garden will meet those standards on several levels, he said. It will produce 5,000 kilowatt hours of energy a year by using solar panels. This process will put more energy back into the grid than the facility uses, he said.

Also, cisterns under the garden retain water to recycle for use with the plants, he said. There’s also a pond for overflow water which provides a natural environment where kids can play and learn.

Stephens has to document everything used in the garden to have an account of its carbon footprint. This involves researching products used in paint, building supplies and anything used in the project. All work hours of machinery are documented as well as distance items have to travel to be placed in the garden, he said.

Rocks used in the garden were cleared from a farmer’s field near the forest.

Along with sustainability, the garden also incorporates education, exploratory and art elements.

Artist-in-residence Mei-Ling Hom created weaved baskets filled with soil and plants inoculated with beneficial fungus in design that represents communication. The artists design spells out a message in Morris code.

Eventually, this art will decompose and create good soil for a future item to plant in the garden. Part of regenerative design is to leave the soil better than you found it, Stephens said.

Equitability is another level to the garden, he said.

Designers brought people who use wheelchairs into the garden to discuss how to design the garden for accessibility. The result was raised bed gardens of a variety of heights to be accessed by any size wheelchair.

One little boy they spoke to had a condition that limited his turning movement. That gave designers the idea to make two raised gardens with a cut out underneath it so that wheelchairs can slide up under the garden for access.

But in the end, the garden will be a place to hang out and slowly, depending on what questions are asked, guides can introduce the concepts used to deign the garden to visitors, Stephens said.

“We can let the natural curiosity of the visitor guide them,” he said.

The food grown in the garden will be used in Isaac’s Café and given to local food kitchens.

BloomFest at Bernheim is 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. A $5 environmental fee will be charged per car for nonmembers. Pets on a leash are welcome.

Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest is 20 minutes north of Elizabethtown off Interstate 65 at Clermont and hosts approximately 200,000 visitors a year.

Becca Owsley can be reached at 270-505-1741 or bowsley@thenewsenterprise.com.

Summer events at Bernheim Forrest:
Full “Flower” Moon Hike - 8:45-10:45 p.m. May 14
BloomFest, Spring Plant Sale, Grand Opening Edible Garden Bernheim – 9 a.m.-4 p.m. May 17
Laser Guided Star Tour - 9–11:30 p.m. May 23
Planet Watch – 9:30 p.m. May 31; midnight June 1
O.W.L.S.: Rock Run Ramble – 10 a.m.–noon June 4
Family Fishing Days – 7 a.m.- 9 p.m. June 7
Guided Millennium Trail Half-Hike – 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m. June 7
ECO Kids Discovery Day: Celebrate National Trails Day – 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. June 7
Pollywog Play Parties: Take a Pollywog Hike – 1:30 a.m.–noon June 7
Family Fishing Days – 7 a.m.–9 p.m. June 8
Full “Strawberry” Moon Hike – 9-11 p.m. June 13
ECO Kids Discovery Day: Summer Symmetry – 9 a.m.–5 p.m., June 21
Summer Star Stories and Sky Watch Night - 9:30 p.m. June 21: midnight June 22
Wild Edibles of Summer Workshop – 9 a.m.–noon June 28