Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Help a local high school raise money through plant sales

I can’t speak for other states or countries, but schools in California are suffering from ever tighter budgets, forcing cuts to programs that are deemed expendable. Often these are disciplines like art and music which have a far lower priority than English, math or science. Some schools are lucky enough to have parent-teacher associations which provide funding for such programs, others don’t fare so well. You can imagine that if art and music classes are on the chopping block, anything related to plants—like horticulture or landscape design—must be even lower on the totem pole.

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Greenhouse at Woodland High School

My friend Sue, whose garden I profiled in this piece, has been volunteering at Woodland High School (WHS) in the nearby town of Woodland for over a year. Woodland High has commercial greenhouse facilities that had fallen into disuse after its horticulture program was cut. Working with Eric Dyer, the chair of the WHS agriculture department, Sue has breathed new life into the greenhouse and, with the help of student volunteers, has started to propagate succulents and other plants. The goal is to raise money at plant sales and farmers markets to offer more plant-related extracurricular activities for students.

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Succulents in greenhouse

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Succulents in greenhouse

Sue has been a gardener all her life, but she’s fairly new to succulents. However, when she saw how popular succulents have become—especially in potted arrangements that are a staple at plant sales and in higher-end nurseries—she jumped in with both feet.

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Succulent arrangement in hollowed-out lava rock

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Succulent arrangement in hollowed-out lava rock

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Hanging succulent basket

The plants she has collected for WHS are from a variety of sources. Some were donated, some Sue bought with her own funds, and some she obtained as freebies from Craigslist and Freecycle. Since many popular succulents are quick and easy to propagate, Sue is building up a collection of stock plants which will be a reliable source of “babies” for years to come.

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Sue’s stock plants

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Portulaca grandiflora started from seed

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Mammillaria segments

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Sedum spathulifolium ‘Cape Blanco’ cuttings

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Sedum makinoi ‘Ogon’ and Crassula ovata cuttings

A secondary goal of Sue’s efforts is to beautify the campus of WHS. Like the majority of schools, it was built with little attention to esthetics so anything that will break up the monotony will help. Studies have shown that the more attractive a school campus is, the better students feel, but only affluent communities have the funds for large-scale beautification projects.

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Outdoor succulent bed created by Sue

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Many of these plants were donated…

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…or freebies

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The columnar cactus (Trichocereus?) will be magnificent when in bloom

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Vegetable beds created by Sue next to the greenhouses

If you live in the Sacramento area and would like to help out with plant donations, or if you know of any plant sale venues where the plants propagated at WHS could be sold, please drop me a line and I will put you in touch with Sue.

This is an opportunity where gardeners like us can step up and make a difference in the lives of high school students who might otherwise never be exposed to plants, botany or horticulture.

15 comments:

  1. I've emailed you Gerhard. Hoping my company will help!

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    1. Kathy, thank you so much for your offer! I've forwarded it to Sue and Eric.

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  2. Wow! she is one dedicated teacher and an artist also.

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    1. Thank you, Laura. I just sent you a PM on Facebook with Sue's email address.

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  3. I love those rock planters - where did she find them? Or where is she going to sell them? Do they have school plant sales? And if so, how do we find out about them?

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    1. Sue bought the lava rock at a rock yard and some of her student volunteers hollowed them out. Please email me your email address and I'll put you in touch with Sue.

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  4. A problem with a creative solution!

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    1. Exactly! Hats off to Sue for donating her time--many hours almost every day.

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  5. Her dedication is impressive! Hope the fund raising goes very well.

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    1. Thanks, guys. I hope schools in the U.K. are better funded.

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  6. Hi, everyone! Thanks for the kind words. This last year has been a real eye-opener for me, in seeing how badly schools have been affected by decreased funding, especially poorer communities that don't have the resources to make up the difference with dedicated parcel taxes and other ways to raise money. Resurrecting an aging, abandoned greenhouse complex has been an incredible challenge, and I stand in awe of how much the teacher I work with has been able to do, with what amounts to duct tape and baling wire to bring everything back to some resemblance of working order. Plus, I have to give credit to the many teenagers who have spent time pulling weeds, scrubbing walls and walkways, and organizing what supplies we've managed to acquire. I’ve managed to raise some money selling vegetable starts and succulent containers, to buy needed tools, soil and pots, but it’s only a small fraction of what’s needed to create a viable program so we can restart formal classes in horticulture and plant science. Plus, my fingers itch to improve the sad state of the landscaping around the school. For those of you that are local, feel free to contact me thru Gerhard for a visit, and Kathy, I’ll have Eric Dyer, the teacher whom I’m working with, contact you about your kind offer to help. Sue

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  7. Wow I have many plants she can have cutting of! I would love to help out. I talked with her a bit at the show and sale!

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  8. I live far far away, but I absolutely adore this!!! She is doing great job, not only making some money for school, but also bringing students closer to nature! As a future biology teacher I know how important that is! Good luck, say hello from me! :)

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