School garden brings awards to a local club

April 18, 1994|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Sun Staff Writer

Daffodils, black-eyed Susans and crocuses have attracted butterflies to Northfield Elementary, thanks to students and members of the Dorsey Hall Garden Club who planted the flowers last year to celebrate the school's 25th anniversary.

Now, in addition to butterflies, the garden has netted two awards for the club.

Last month, the Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland gave the group community service awards for creating the perennial garden at the Ellicott City school and for supervising the work of three students who planted their own garden.

"We were really excited," said garden club member Ellen DeCaro, the organization's former president. "This is the first time we've ever won anything."

Last May, the club designed and planted the garden at the school's entrance with the help of 125 fourth-graders who weeded, prepared the soil, planted flowers and mulched a second school garden.

"It was like a big science project," said Laura Plitt, 10, from Ellicott City, who enjoyed transforming a barren patch of earth into a garden.

The garden contains about 12 varieties of bulbs, perennials and shrubs, and has done wonders for the school's appearance, said students and garden club members.

Yellow daffodils and tiny violet crocuses line the walkway at the school's entrance. Other plants -- such as short sweet Williams, black-eyed Susans and irises -- will sprout later this spring.

Before the flower beds were planted, the plots of land were "mostly dead plants with lots of dead grass," said Dag Ayele, 10, a Northfield student who helped work on the project.

Garden club member Carol Christens-Barry said the area didn't look that bad, but admits it looks better now.

"It was pretty before, but it's so much prettier now," Ms. Christens-Barry said. "It's a nice way to invite people into the school."

Garden club members tried to inject fun and learning into their project with the children.

"Our goals were to instruct them in erosion control, soil conservation and educate them about a perennial bed," said Claudia Sterne, adding that members also wanted "to expose them to the joy and fun of gardening."

Planting the garden coincided with the fourth-graders' lessons on soil erosion. The students, now fifth-graders, said they learned a lot from their experience with the garden club.

"I learned how [flowers] bloom, and when they'll bloom," said Sarah Albert, 10.

Planting the garden has inspired some students to start their own flower beds. Under the supervision of the garden club, fourth-graders Laura Plitt, Julia Sterne and Averil Christens-Barry planted a butterfly garden using blue and gold flowers -- their school colors. A butterfly garden contains plants that butterflies and hummingbirds find attractive.

This year, Laura and Julia have continued their botanical interests by creating a greenhouse in the school library, growing marigolds, an African violet and even sweet basil.

Daily, they water the plants and monitor growth. Julia learned how plants absorb water: "It's sort of like drinking out of your feet."

Students were not the only ones inspired by the garden. The experience at Northfield Elementary has prompted the garden club to start a similar garden at Dunloggin Middle School, next door to Northfield.

To raise funds for the middle school garden, club members will hold a plant sale at the Dorsey's Search Village Center on April 30 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Club members said they accomplished both their goals: to create a community garden and to teach students about horticulture.

"That's what garden clubs are for," Ms. Christens-Barry said. "Not just beautifying an area but educating people."

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