Landscape design in the garden

I mentioned that an Eagle Scout candidate recently broke ground on a project in our garden.  I am pleased to report that it is finished, and it is wonderful.

Think about everything this one young man had to do to complete this project:

…write a proposal, fundraise, recruit a work team, communicate with the garden club, build and stain a bridge, source materials, compare prices, learn a bit of carpentry, study riverbed design, locate and transport local river stone, examine drainage issues, cut the path, move a lot of dirt, install footings, project manage, and put it all together!  As a result, our school garden is that much more beautiful and well-designed for his efforts.  Thank you Sawyer, Troop 690 and all of the adult volunteers!

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All Hail the Eagle Scout!

Big tip: the Boy Scouts of America are an amazing resource for school gardens.  The ultimate goal of any Boy Scout is to achieve the rank of “Eagle Scout,” which requires many things and culminates in a big project.  And what do all school gardens have in common?  BIG PROJECTS!   Making an addition to the garden, the scouts have the opportunity to leave a legacy at the elementary school they attended.  Thus far we have been the lucky recipients of two projects.

A “doorway” at the side entrance of the garden:

A small orchard of five fruit trees: apricot, cherry, nectarine, peach and plum.  (By the way, kids love the fact that the trees were purposely planted in alphabetical order!)

And now a third young man is getting ready to begin the construction phase of his project: to build a dry riverbed in order to direct rain runoff and beautify the north side of the garden.  I should be able to post on the finished project soon.  Here’s the “before,” as he’s raking away woodchips to mark out the riverbed’s footprint:

The project includes a new platform at the side gate, a meandering dry riverbed...

.....dotted with native plants, crossed by a footbridge, and ending at the drain (photo courtesy of Marisa McFedries)

3 reasons to invite your community into your school garden

1.  People like knowing good things are happening in their community.  Every year our school hosts an open house for Global Youth Service Day.  Last year our “Garden Ambassadors” led garden tours for community members as part of the program.  We had neighbors, business owners, school board members, fellow gardeners—even the librarians walked up to the campus in shifts.  More than one adult approached me with tears in their eyes, saying “This is so wonderful.”  Seeing kids poised, knowledgeable, and proud of a project they’re involved in…..well, it just feels good, and makes you happy to know that it’s going on in the place where you live .

Garden Ambassadors orients visitors at our bulletin board

2.  If people are going to support their local schools, they need to be connected to them. Last Spring the women’s group from my church asked for a tour in conjunction with their monthly meeting.  Some of them had not stepped foot on campus in twenty years (when their kids were students); some of them had never stepped foot on campus.  And once they did….they noticed our beautiful murals….and our commanding view of Mt. Volcan from our playground…..and the fact that we have a full-time PE teacher!  I had to keep coaxing them back to the garden, as they were caught up in looking around with excitement.  As we were sitting at the table starting our tour, one of the teacher aides walked up with a quilt.  She had sewn a beautiful quilt for a raffle to support the tsunami victims in Japan. Seeing the women assembled, she asked if she could show it and explain the fundraiser.  Naturally I invited her over, and the dollar bills started flying across the table–“I’ll take two tickets,”  “Here’s a donation!” “I’ll take a ticket, keep the change.”  Sometimes people simply need to know what’s going on to be a part of it.

I love these ladies!

3.  You never know what connections and possibilities these visits may produce.   After a visit, a neighbor donated a small solar panel unit.  A retired school teacher brought by three asclepsis plants for our habitat garden (each one had monarch eggs, a chrysalis and even caterpillars) and then gave a wonderful presentation to the first grade students.  And then…….

Last summer a parent volunteer invited her neighbor to tour the garden.  An artist, the neighbor also runs a local business.  After visiting the garden, she decided to create a mosaic sculpture for us.  When I called to thank her and ask why she made such a generous and spontaneous donation, she cited everything from the “beautiful yellow snapdragons” to the fact that some of her clients work at the school, and she wanted to do this for them.  I was on vacation when the piece was delivered, and I was amazed to see it sitting in the garden when I returned—a unexpected grace note.  We held a ceremony and unveling, with the Garden Ambassadors assisting, and it sits in our butterfly garden today.

The artist Coco Leeras with "Gardens Grow Magic"

On Mulberries and Healing

A local counseling service told us that they would like to donate a tree to the school garden, dedicated to the healing of the children of Julian with whom they work intimately. The garden club decided on a “weeping edible mulberry.”  The tree does not get very large, but the foliage grows thick—just large enough for a child to pass through and wrap his/her arms around the trunk.  Hence, it has been nicknamed the “hugging tree,” standing as a hopeful symbol in the heart of the garden.

Beginning to leaf out