University of Maine Cooperative Extension


A Statewide Newsletter for Master Gardener Volunteers - October 2005
The Cutting Corner

A Master Gardener Project at the Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast

by Anna Kessler, Master Gardener Volunteer

Last December, I met with the Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast to discuss how I could ìget my hours inî towards Master Gardener certification. Touring the schoolís greenhouse facility with Don White (Agricultural Coordinator) and Steve Tanguay (7th Grade Economics, History and Agriculture teacher), I was amazed at what was already growing there ñ tomatoes, carrots, chard, beets, basil, even a banana tree and a water garden.  What really caught my eye were the flowers - splashes of color from calendula, marigold, petunia, geranium and salvia, which were all growing happily in pots or hanging baskets, or in beds among the vegetables.  One of my passions is flower arranging and I maintain a large flower garden for that purpose. When Don described how he likes the students to take flowers from the greenhouse into the school for display, I knew what I could do! 

With the seventh-graders we would create a cutting garden, a project not undertaken at the school before, and in the fall I would teach them some professional skills relating to the care and handling of flowers and basic floral design. Steve and Don really liked the idea and in March I started a weekly session with 5 or 6 students. We went through flower catalogs picking out flowers they would like to grow.  These were described as "cool"; the ones they didnít want (Baby's Breath, Love-in-a-mist) were rejected with a "gross" and "yuk"!  We finally settled on a list of annuals, some to be started in the greenhouse, the rest to be directly sown in the garden. Once we had measured our allotted space we drew up plans for the garden, which would include eight beds, a sunflower house and arches on which to train Morning Glories.

The weather worked against all growers this year and the ground was too cold and wet to do much in the garden before early June.  I enlisted the help of Master Gardener classmate Lynn Pussic and with everyoneís help we managed to get everything in place by the time the students left for the summer vacation. They really enjoyed the hands-on activities and their obvious enthusiasm for sheer hard work was great to see!

Throughout the summer Lynn and I have managed to keep the garden under control working two mornings a week watering, weeding and deadheading the flowers. We are amazed at how the plants have grown way beyond our expectations.   

The soil at THMS is just so wonderful! The garden now is a riot of color and we have some beautiful flowers to use in arrangements: Bishopís Flower, cleome, cosmos, dahlia, lobelia, marigold, Mexican sunflower, nicotiana, Peacock Lily, sunflower, verbena. and we did manage to sneak in some Love-in-a-mist!

We are looking forward to seeing the studentsí reactions to the garden when they return to school next week. Last spring I did some very elementary flower arranging with a few students and I know they will be excited to work with and arrange flowers that they nurtured from seeds to seedlings to blooms from their own Cutting Corner.

If you would like to help with this project, contact Liz Stanley . 800-244-21204.