Booth focuses on youth

Published 5:00 am Monday, April 30, 2007

Six-year-old Katelin Smith was already a budding gardener whenshe attended the Spring Gardening Extravaganza in Railroad ParkSaturday with her aunt, Mandy Foster.

“Yay! Last week we got sunflowers at school,” she said. “I gotit from my teacher and we put it outside and it made asunflower.”

Katelin is just one of dozens of children who attended theevent, sponsored by the Master Gardeners of Brookhaven. While theExtravaganza was a great day for green thumbs and greenhorns of allages, it was also a special chance for adults to expose theirchildren to the joys of growing things.

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This was made possible particularly through a booth where kidswere allowed to pot plants themselves to take home to give themwhat might be their first experiences with watching something growat their own hands.

Jane Kees of the Master Gardeners said the “Kids Can” booth wasan idea she came up with after seeing her five-year-old grandsonget excited about gardening for himself.

“I came up with the idea last year,” said Kees. “I got mygrandson John some children’s gloves and a tool set for Easter, andhe got so excited about planting things. I realized that if he’sthat excited about it, other kids could be too.”

Master Gardener Carolyn Rounsaville compared gardening tosports.

“If you start them young and keep at it, they stay interested init later in life,” she said.

Children who visited the booth were also given a paperexplaining how plants clean the air we breathe throughphotosynthesis and reduce indoor pollutants.

This way kids know that plants aren’t only pretty, they’rehelpful, too, Rounsaville said.

“We want to encourage kids to grow indoor plants because itcleans up the air,” she said, holding one of the “airplane plants”donated for the children to keep by Home Depot and Buds and BloomsNursery.

Foster, who also had her 11-year-old daughter Kennedy Foster andsix-year-old nephew Blaise Smith in tow at the event, said herparents had not only influenced her interest in flowers, but alsothat of their grandchildren. She said gardening is something kidsshould grow up around on general principle.

“Yeah, it’s important,” she said. “We’re in Mississippi. You’vegot to know how to grow things. Plus, everyone’s got a prettyflower bed around here.”

Kees said the reasons to expose kids to growing things extendbeyond just their own pleasure in making things grow, but thatwatching the interest and delight on their faces makes “Kids Can”fun for all ages.

“And the best part of this booth is if you watch how intensetheir faces are while they pot the plants, you can tell they’reactually involved in it,” she said. “It’s not that they have to doit, it’s that they want to do it.”

Kees, whose granddaughter Mary, 3, is also well-acquainted withher watering can and seeds, said the legacy of gardening is onethat can be passed along, even if the natural-born love of growingthings isn’t immediately present in a child.

“Well, it’s like anything else,” she said. “Any child you teachis going to carry the love for gardening away if you teach it withlove. But I’d go further to say you don’t teach it so much as youdemonstrate it.”