As part of its “Branching Out” program, the Morton Arboretum added a children's garden. The six-year project provides children a unique environment to learn about plants through interaction. Much thought was given to how children would engage in the surroundings. Details such as leaf imprints, patterned walkways, and concrete stamping were integrated throughout the project, making it a showcase for decorative concrete.
Completed in summer 2005, the garden includes more than 20,500 square feet of decorative pavement. Elliot Construction, cast integrally colored pavement, formed and placed separately from adjoining curving panels of non-colored concrete. Butterfield Color custom molded stamps to label nine walkways after the names of trees. Each stamp was used twice. And several months before needed, the director of the Children's Garden, Katherine Johnson, gathered 3500 tree leaves of the tree species the walkways would be named for. The leaves were pressed and dried, then later soaked before placing and imprinting them on the fresh concrete walkways.
Julie Thompson, owner of Designing Concrete, used a “wasp” tool and a template to engrave large leaves, vines, and plant details in one area and then she chemically stained them. In a circular sitting area Johnson used a mason's jointing tool to write a poem in a long spiral pattern that children would have to walk around to read. Well-executed colored, curving stairs lead to a picnic area where the circular pavement was masked in square grids and lightly sand-blasted to provide additional patterning.