Friday, August 10, 2007

A Dream Becomes a Reality

When my mom enrolled in Master Gardener training three years ago, she did it so she could learn more about something she loved - gardening. Mom had always had gardens and beautiful ones, too. She already knew more about flowers and plants than most people I knew and I wondered why she would want to put herself through the classes, but little did I know (nor did she) where it would lead.

Master Gardeners are required to give 50 hours of service in the form of a project as part of earning their designation as a Master Gardener. In Mom's class, each member submitted an idea, then the group voted on the ideas to choose how they would give their time back to the community in which they lived.
Mom had a vision of a community children's garden where area kids could learn about the growing process and all that was involved in caring for a garden. She saw it as a happy, fun place for them to be, while learning in the process. She had seen children's gardens in other parts of the country and wanted this for her own hometown. The group voted and Mom's idea was chosen.

Only those involved in this mammoth project could have any idea of the degree of cooperation, volunteerism, and philanthropy it took to bring this garden to fruition. Yesterday, though the gardens are not yet completed, it was presented to the community and there was an official ribbon-cutting ceremony.

L-R: Andy Kleinschmidt, Austin & Stephanie Adams,
Ollie Adams, Louise Hartwig

The star of the show is the Butterfly House, designed by Twyla Hayes and funded by KAM Manufacturing, which produces products for
Vera Bradley, maker of the colorful, stylish fabric accessories such as handbags and luggage. The child-proportioned house is pink with a green roof and has a netted garden behind it, where butterflies will live.

The house is trimmed in Vera Bradley's Bermuda Pink pattern, and is the first time the company has allowed their copyrighted prints to be used outside the company. One of Vera Bradley's two founders, Pat Miller, was on hand for the ribbon cutting and addressed the crowd of about 300 children and parents.
Ollie Adams, co-owner of KAM, also spoke, as did Van Wert mayor Don Farmer, City Parks Director Sue Heppeard, OSU County Extension Agent Andy Kleinschmidt, and my mom, Louise Hartwig. The mayor presented keys to the city to Ms. Miller, Adams, and Kleinschmidt.

The highlight of the opening was the release of 200 Painted Lady butterflies by the children in attendance. Fifty of them were released inside the butterfly house, while the rest were let go outside.

It was thrilling to see all those butterflies rising from the crowd and immediately many of them landed on the flowers planted in the gardens. The looks on the faces of the children as they opened their little packets and saw the butterflies flutter out was just the beginning of what these children will experience here in the time to come.

There is a red-roofed gazebo situated in the center of the gardens, surrounded by a low wall lined with ceramic tiles made by third-, fourth- and fifth- grade children of the county. Nearby is a granite rhinoceros for climbing.

The Secret Garden is a touching tribute to Melody Mohr Hicks, given by her family. There is a small table and chairs made of cement in the shape of mushrooms, surrounded by mulberry trees which will eventually grow to give this garden a secluded feel.

A garden of this magnitude has required thousands of dollars in donations since Master Gardeners has no money of their own. They have a plant sale in the spring and host a garden walk, which helps fund their projects, but they rely on volunteers for work and the generosity of individuals and corporate donations to make projects such as this a reality.
One way that individuals and groups can help contribute to the Children's Garden is through the purchase of a personalized brick. There are two sizes for purchase, with the smaller one at $100 and the larger one costing $200.

There will be ongoing maintenance costs, so even when the gardens are completed, there will be a need for donations, which can be made through the OSU Extension Office in Van Wert.

Future gardens planned are a "Healthy Me" Garden, Rainbow Garden , Sundial Garden, Enabling Garden for the handicapped, 100 Acre Wood, Discovery Garden, Pollination Garden, and "Petals and Feathers" Garden.

The Children's Garden is located in Smiley Park, across from the Van Wert Airport on Leeson Avenue on the west side of town.

I can't end this post without saying a few words about my mom to those of you who don't know her or who have never met her. Those of you who have, know I don't need to say any more. You have seen her in action.

My mom was just a farm girl who grew up and stayed in our rural community, but her zest for life and the ideas that come out of that pretty head of hers know no bounds. She's an incredibly positive person who knows how to get things done, whether it be for herself or for others. "Can't" just isn't in her vocabulary.
To be sure, she's had a supporting cast - mainly my dad - but the creativity and motivation for what she does pours forth from her like the fountain of youth, which surely she drinks from daily. How one person can have so much drive, ambition, and energy - and still have it at 73 - is beyond me. I didn't inherit it. But I'm proud that she is the woman, along with my dad, who raised me. As a family, we are surely blessed.

EDIT: The Van Wert Times-Bulletin has posted a video of the ribbon-cutting ceremony on their website.


Carol Michel said...

What a wonderful garden for the children of your community. They are surely blessed by your mom and all the master gardeners!

Carol at May Dreams Gardens

Anonymous said...

Wonderful story!! What a great gift for your community. Your Mom sounds just as energetic as my Mom. At 82 years old, she still cans hundreds of jars of fruits and vegetables every summer. I do not know how she does it, it must have something to do with the times they grew up in.

Alyssa said...

Your Mother is quite a woman. And I can't believe that she is 73! She looks in her early 50s. And to have finished her Master Gardeners course is a real feather in her cap (it sounds like she has quite a few already).

The children will really enjoy their new garden and learn so much. It is a wonderful idea and will touch many lives. I'd like to see more pictures of it as it matures. And the Butterfuly House is beautiful. Where did all the butterflies come from??

Your Mom is a very unique person and you are very lucky.

Great post.

joey said...

What a lovely tribute to your Mother, Kylee. Indeed, she is a remarkable woman. I have a strong feeling, "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree."

Colleen Vanderlinden said...

i teared up several times while reading this post. Your mom sounds like a wonderful person, a hero in every sense of the word. What a phenomenal accomplishment. The children of your town will have this gift forever, thanks to your mom's creative thinking, and the work and generosity of so many others. This is the kind of story I love to hear. Thank you so much for sharing it!

Robin's Nesting Place said...

I love the pink and green house, it's so colorful and pretty. I hope the children will appreciate and enjoy the garden for years to come. Your mom is an inspiration!

Sweet Home and Garden Carolina said...

My eyes are still teary as I write. What a wonderful tribute to your lovely and tremendously creative mother. If you hadn't told me she was 73 I would've guessed fifty-something. See what gardening does for you !

The children's garden is just incredible and what an opportunity for your community to make good use of it.

I have no doubt that you are your mother's daughter, some of that has rubbed off on you, Kylee.

The children's garden will always be a living memorial to your wonderful mother.

Alice said...

What a proud and joyful occasion this must have been for you all. To see your mother's wonderful idea come to fruition and know that it will be enjoyed by children and parents alike for many years, must have made you very proud.

Your Mum looks fantastic and so 'young' for her age. May she also be witness to the pleasure it brings the community for a long, long time.

David (Snappy) said...

What a Fantastic day then.Your horticultural blood comes from your mother then.If you have the passion in you then you can always drink from that fabled fountain of youth.
I am inspired now to keep up with my RHS Advanced certificate, on the way up to a Master Gardener certificate.
I hope you will go back to photograph the childrens garden to see how it grows!

Andy said...

Great article and great incoroporation of the pictures. Well done!

Andy Kleinschmidt

hicksa83 said...

I am Melody's daughter. I just wanted to say thank you for the article and for all the hard work your mom and everyone involved has done. I remember Smiley Park from my childhood and it will forever be a special place for me and my family. I love that my mom's memory has been kept alive in her hometown.

Garden Lily said...

What a great story, and what a blessing to have a mom who has imparted the love of gardening to you, as well as to the many children who will enjoy that garden.

Terry Williamson said...

Kylee's Mother lives directly behind my parents and every time I am home we have a beautiful view of her magnificent back yard. I've photographed it many times and the Childrens Garden in Van Wert is an impressive effort for such a small community. I can testify that Louise is a dynamo. My friends here in Chicago who have met her have all testified that Martha Stewart is a "Louise Hartwig" wannabe.

TC said...

A BIG CONGRATS!! to your mom and all the other hard working master gardeners! As an MG myself I know the degree of volunteerism required to make projects like your mom's successful. I think a children's garden is something our MG's should consider establishing.

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