Seeds of Change
March 5, 2015
Most of the children attending Larry G. Smith Elementary School, where 93 percent of students are disadvantaged, have never heard of a pomegranate, much less tasted one. But with a little luck and time, the unique fruits will sprout in the school’s backyard in Mesquite, Texas.
Pomegranates, pears, lavender, and mint are among the dozens of species planted last October in a new learning garden created by Jo Malone London with REAL School Gardens and the teachers, parents, and kids of Larry G. Smith school. It’s Jo Malone’s second sponsorship of an urban garden in North America—the first opened in Brooklyn in 2013. The London-based, Estée Lauder–owned company started the charitable outreach two years ago in the U.K., affirming that essences of herbs, flowers, and fruit are the foundation of its fragrant products. It’s built four gardens in the U.K. and plans a global rollout of urban green spots.
“I think most people can agree that gardens oftentimes become places that are good for the soul,” Nancy Feetham, VP of North American sales, marketing, and education at Jo Malone, told the crowd of volunteers gathered with shovels and trowels for Larry G. Smith’s big dig. “What’s at the heart of the gardens is the desire that we all have to get back to nature, to our beginnings and our roots.”
The project was designed by REAL School Gardens, a Dallas charity that supervises construction and supplies lesson plans, teacher training, and ongoing advice from professional landscapers. Educational gardens are proven to boost academic performance, reduce stress and ADD behaviors, and dissolve barriers between students, noted Ellen Robinson, REAL School’s manager of programs and services. And eating veggies you’ve grown yourself is a powerful way to learn about nutrition and healthful food choices.
Steel placards that detail what’s growing, how it’s used, its scent, and a historical tidbit mark each plant in the school’s one-third-acre garden. There are beds dedicated to fragrant plants, perennials, and vegetables, as well as an area for wildflowers, a rainwater barrel, an earth science station, a trellis supporting a passion vine, a shady gathering spot, and a sand pit where little ones can dig for dinosaur bones.
A gardener herself, Feetham worked alongside the volunteers. “We’re here to till the earth and we’re together,” she said, “so that’s pretty exciting.” — Holly Haber