A Garden I Know, and One I Will Learn

The school down the road has a garden that I know well.  There, in the butterfly garden, are plants picked by former students and some selected by me, some were donated by parents or staff, and many were purchased.  In the center is a large,  overgrown, lilac bush. It serves as a shelter for butterflies that might need to get out of the rain or wind during the time they spend visiting our school and yards in the milder months of the year. There is common milkweed and whorled milkweed, planted some years ago, to fulfill the necessary criteria to be certified a Monarch Way Station.  The purple milkweed has disappeared, but was planted with the rest in 2006. There is a sign that tells students, visitors, and families that monarchs are welcomed in this garden. The sign, from Monarch Watch, tells a story of caring humans – students and adults – who lovingly provided this habitat for the Monarch Butterfly on these school grounds since 2008.

Currently, the garden contains mostly perennial plants including Yarrow, Black-eyed Susan’s, Purple Coneflowers, day lilies, hosta, and milkweed. Last May, just as the twelve years before, we planted petunias, marigolds, and Gaillardia for instant color, just before the school year ended.

There are worms in the soil that we used for our earthworm unit experiments and then, released in the bed to help nourish the soil.  Every spring there is a return some lily of the valley, so hard to remove. I know, I tried every year.

I remember some years we planted New England Asters in the fall for color, but they never survived the winter sidewalk plowing.  And, other varieties of butterfly favorites were planted in springs’ past such as zinnias and Shasta daisies. The lilac bush was pruned, if we remembered to do it at the right time of year.

Yes, I know this garden well. I have records of its growth through diagrams, grant and certification applications, and many, many photographs that span more than a decade of care.  There was even a newspaper article or two over the years, to preserve the time and tell the story of the garden at Evergreen.  I know the little things, the things about the garden and its history that only those involved would have knowledge of and be able to share. I remember the compliments, and the silence. So many are the memories!

Solemnly, I remember the boy whose memorial stone lies near a corner marking his enthusiasm and participation in garden club before he became ill and passed from this world into the next.  I remember yelling at a family who rode their bikes – all five of them – parents included, through the garden bed, just after we planted it. I remember the high school students and other parents who came to help us make all our projects a success.  I remember looking for worms, caterpillars, chrysali, and milkweed as early signs of the changing seasons. I recall making 25 bluebird houses, one with each club member, so many years ago!

But, today, I will be introduced to a new garden bed, at a new school. It is larger, more complex, and in truth, somewhat intimidating to think about. Yet, I expect to find some great similarities. I know the new garden is also a Monarch Way Station! I know the  garden, new to me, has been cared for by the same women for almost as long as I cared for the one at the school down the road.  I know how they feel about “their” garden, even before I meet them.  Believe me, I know.  I know I have to drive 9.5 additional miles to reach the garden now.  I know there is a shed full of garden equipment ready to be used. I know that the young school-aged children want to be in the garden. I know that the school wants the garden to be tended, and lovingly cared for by a dedicated advisor. I know, right now, I feel welcomed and wanted – just as I did in the early years in the garden at Evergreen.

However, I do not know the garden yet. Knowing the garden takes time. I will meet with the previous caretakers. I will learn the plants they selected. I will promise to care for them as seriously as if I selected the plants myself. I will let me knowledge of a garden I cared for and built, sustain me as I become a newbie, once again. I will plant this garden with the promise of hope, and seeds of stewardship, just as I did the garden I knew before. Today, I will learn a new garden.

This blog is part of the Slice of Life Tuesdays sponsored by TwoWritingTeachers.org. Thank you for the opportunity to be part of a wonderfully supportive writing community!

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