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Connecticut Garden Journal
Connecticut Garden Journal is a weekly program hosted by horticulturalist Charlie Nardozzi. Each week, Charlie focuses on a topic relevant to both new and experienced gardeners, including pruning lilac bushes, growing blight-free tomatoes, groundcovers, sunflowers, bulbs, pests, and more.

Connecticut Garden Journal: Cognitive Gardens

A new cognitive garden at UConn's Avery Point campus.
Annette Montoya
A new cognitive garden at UConn's Avery Point campus.

When I was a young boy growing up near my Italian grandfather's farm in Waterbury, every day my cousins, and neighborhood friends, would spend hours in the farm fields and forest playing. We'd make up games, go on adventures, or simply lie in the field and dream. Little did I know that we were creating better cognitive functioning for our brains.

Cognition is increased by learning through the senses, experiences and thoughts. Nature and gardens are great places for this functioning to develop. Researchers have found that having a variety of sensory stimulation such as what’s found in nature, is important at all ages, but critical in kids up to age 7, for proper brain development.

Unfortunately, children spend less and less time outdoors in nature and in gardens playing. So, I'm excited about the University of Connecticut at Avery Point in Groton spearheading the creation of a cognitive garden. The brainchild of landscape designer and UConn student, Annette Montoya, the garden features plants that stimulate the senses grown in a place where kids can run, play, touch, fall and roll, all in a safe and beautiful setting.

So far, the gardens include a pollinator garden, herb garden where kids are encouraged to pick, taste and smell the plants, waterfall, labyrinth and a whale-shaped grass berm for kids to climb and play. Being out in nature and in a garden has been proven to help increase a child's confidence, self-esteem, and ability to concentrate.

The garden is a collaboration between UConn, local technical schools, boy scouts, volunteers and Pfizer. It's open to the public.

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