Hi! I’m Heather and this summer I’ve been hired as an intern on the Trinity College Sense Project (TCD Sense) – to produce a sensory map of the Trinity College Botanic Gardens (the gardens).

I have autism and this makes me particularly sensitive to external stimuli. But sensory information is everywhere and impacts everyone uniquely.  Understanding what sensations we personally find pleasing or unpleasant can have a very positive or negative impact on our health and wellbeing.

The sensory map of the gardens is intended for the whole Trinity College community in the hope that not only will we all learn more about our personal sensory likes and dislikes, but will also discover areas in the gardens which we find comforting and soothing.

College life can be difficult for everyone at times, students and staff alike, but close proximity to nature can calm anxiety and reduce stress levels.

Me (Heather) in the 'wild' corner of the Walled Garden
Past research projects on pollination and climate change in the Walled Garden

I am a botany student so I’ve visited the gardens many times in the past couple of years and the gardens are bursting with sensory information:  listening to the bees, smelling the flowers, feeling the cool air on your skin when standing in the shade under a tree, touching the plants, watching the birds, picking your own apples in the autumn.

The gardens are special and unique.  They are a registered botanical collection belonging to the students and staff of Trinity College, and are an important research and teaching facility of the Department of Botany, as well as an outstandingly beautiful biodiversity hotspot.

As you walk around you can see evidence of current research projects of students and staff, and remnants of past projects; there are tealights hanging from trees; there is the occasional cactus wearing a pair of sunglasses; and then of course there is the resident pet cat, Fluffy.  The gardens are charming, personal and very different from anywhere else.

I hope you enjoy following this blog and I hope you learn more about your sensory self.

I would like to conclude this first blog with an invitation to you to visit the gardens, you are always very welcome.  The gardens are open from 9am to 4pm, Monday to Friday.

This year, every Thursday in June was designated ‘open garden’ for Trinity staff and students with tea, coffee and pastries in the mornings, but, as I said, you are welcome any time during opening hours.

Getting to the gardens is easy with a leap card, the 140 bus is every ten minutes from outside Trinity towards Rathmines.  Stay on the bus until the very last stop and the gardens are a three minute walk away, or you can take the green line Luas to Cowper and the gardens are a ten minute walk from there (see the map).

Tea on the lawn during June Open Garden days

June was a busy month for interns at The Gardens, with open days every Thursday where we welcomed groups from the college community.  It was lovely having so many visitors and we were very lucky with the weather.

The sensory trail around the gardens was progressing well with stops added in for seasonal foraging (raspberries, anyone?), and some gentle instruction for how to enjoy different elements of the garden, like the tree canopy in the arboretums. John Parnell, who manages the Trinity campus trees, also helped us to turn a maple tree that fell on the grounds into some indoor seating for the glasshouses. This means that not only will visitors have somewhere to sit and relax indoors, but we recycled an old fallen tree from campus to create some rustic and environmentally friendly outdoor furniture!

Lying under the beautiful canopy of the black walnut tree was the perfect place to cool down after working hard in the summer sunshine

Raspberries began appearing in the corner once used for horticulture demonstrations (though they disappeared very quickly when we discovered them!)

Tree trunks were recycled to create sturdy, environmentally friendly seating for visitors to use in some of the glass houses.

Many of the carnivorous plants were flowering in June and it was fascinating to see how tall the flower stems were in comparison with the rest of the plant.  Many species seemed to grow their flowers much higher than their traps, presumably an evolutionary benefit as it means they are less likely to eat the insects they need for pollination.

Venus fly traps grow flowers high above the traps in an attempt to avoid eating their pollinators

Fluffy, the garden cat, initially very cautious of the new interns, warmed considerably towards the newest members of the team following considerable bribes of milk, cat treats and many chin scratches.

It is easier to show you in pictures what June is like at the gardens and therefore the remainder of this blog will be the highlights of the past two weeks in photographs.

Thanks for reading…Heather.