University of Delaware
Office of Public Relations
The Messenger
Vol. 5, No. 2/1996
A child's garden of posies, whimsical vegetables

     There's one word that describes the world behind-the-scenes
at the Philadelphia Flower Show 24 hours before the judges'
review. That word is "panic." But, amid the forklifts and Bobcats
hauling loads of topsoil and plants-and among the aisles strewn
with packing material, posies and peat moss-there's a sense of
purpose as hundreds of hands busily go about their work.
     First, there is the raking and spreading of tons of soil,
provided by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, producer of
the show. Then, there's the careful placing of plants, the raking
of pathways, erection of structures and, finally, the finishing
touches: laying of sod, painstaking tying of vines to supports
and setting of props.
     "I'm not sure how we're going to pull it off," said Karin
Arentzen, a volunteer at work setting up the University of
Delaware Botanic Gardens (UDBG) display. But, pull it off they
did. So well, in fact, that the UDBG's display of a child's
garden, "Child's Play," won second place in its class: A Peek at
Private Places. In addition, the display won the society's
maintenance award in its class.
     The UDBG Friends group-volunteers who promote the gardens on
the grounds of UD's College of Agricultural Sciences-began its
display months ago. With funds granted by the Pennsylvania
Horticultural Society, the group rented bench space in the
college's Fischer Greenhouse Laboratory. There, they started seed
and forced young trees to leaf out early-all to bring springtime
a few weeks ahead of schedule to the urban surroundings of the
Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia.
     "We looked at the child's garden as a way to introduce
children to being stewards of the land," greenhouse assistant
Teresa Holton said. "We designed a child-friendly garden with
bright flowers, whimsical vegetables and props to appeal to
children's need for play."
     The group planted a ribbon of annuals in colors-including
purple petunias, blue salvia, yellow marigolds, orange calendulas
and red pentas-in the 20-by-20-foot garden.
     Scented geraniums and aromatic herbs of catnip, licorice and
lemon thyme brought sweet scents up close. A plant house made
from lattice and covered with vines provided a secret place for
children to play, and an attached arbor of corkscrew willow
supplied additional shade.
     The vegetable garden included Tom Thumb lettuce, Easter Egg
radish and miniature pumpkins and carrots. A grinning scarecrow
stood guard among an army of towering sunflowers. Nearby, a
topiary frog, butterfly, snail, squirrel and cat were ready for
their roles as imaginary friends, while a birdhouse and bird
feeder attracted winged wildlife to keep children company.
     Another UD group from the Department of Plant and Soil
Sciences took third place for its entryway display and received a
maintenance award. The group's winning design, a florist shop
storefront on Philadelphia's Logan Square, also was awarded a
trophy by the Pennsylvania Nurserymen's Association for
successful use of plant materials.
                                   -Claire McCabe, Delaware '85M