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Rice Elementary School Roots and Shoots Garden

Meadow Garden at Rice Elementary in Greenwood, SC

The beautiful Roots and Shoots Garden at Rice Elementary School was a highlight of the Festival of Flowers Garden Tour in Greenwood, SC, this year.

Aren’t school gardens the greatest idea? Giving children the opportunity not only to be outside, but also to learn how to take care of a special collection of plants while they’re out there, is a real gift these days. And finding out where food comes from when you’re used to tearing open a plastic bag is no small thing!

Meadow Garden at Rice Elementary School

Gardens are an opportunity to learn about the other creatures that share our spaces, too. A meadow filled with colorful bird- and butterfly-friendly flowers lies adjacent to the parking lots.

But the Roots and Shoots Garden proper is up the hill, where a functional (and probably boring) courtyard once existed.

Can Man Scarecrow

A can man scarecrow stands guard just inside the fence. I suspect he’s a little weak in the scare department; he looks perfectly amiable! Kiwi vines, just out of view, drape the fence on either side of him.

Color at the Rice Elementary School Garden

Once inside, wide paths provide ample space for groups of children to gather. Bright color evokes the high energy summer vacationing children typically provide. It’s a cheerful, inviting space.

Rice Elementary School Roots and Shoots Garden

Raised beds provide good drainage for a range of vegetables. That Swiss chard looks ready to eat! Decorative trellises, and garden art like the clay pot man, provide plenty of charm for children and adults alike.

Birdbath and Flowers

Going clockwise around the garden, pollinator-friendly flowers surround a bird bath. I’d partake if I were a bird.

Tassel flower (Emilia)

I got a zing of must-have-those when I saw the little red flowers, even if I’m not a bird. I was not familiar with them, but they look a lot like a wild lettuce, only red, and I’m partial to weeds…and to red. I believe they’re tassel flower (Emilia sp.), but if you know better, please leave a comment to let me know.

the lean-to shed at Rice Elementary School

To the right of the bird bath is the cutest storage structure with window boxes and door arrangement. There is lots of thoughtful attention to detail in the garden.

Mexican hat flower

Mexican hat flower (Ratibida columnifera) is hard to resist. I bet the children love these.

water garden at Rice Elementary

Wait, lilypads? Well, like I said, this garden is full of detail—and care, and attention.

It turns out there’s a garden fairy involved. Her name is Billie Elsley and she is the heart and soul of the garden. The design is hers, the constructing and maintaining of the garden is done by her, or under her instruction, and she works with hundreds of children every school year. If only clones of her were available! It is truly remarkable what Ms. Elsley has accomplished here.

A water garden, with sides high enough that it’s hard to fall in, boasts lilypads, a turtle or two—

pitcher plants (Sarracenia)

—and a pot of carnivorous pitcher plants.

zinnia-sipping skipper

A skipper butterfly sips nectar from this peachy zinnia without a care for the looming cloud of a photographer over her.

The Garden Fairy sees us preparing to leave and insists we make a stop at her home garden (where it happens that her unsuspecting husband John will graciously greet and entertain us, and we’ll admire their incredible collection of shade plants.) Mr. Elsley is used to this sort of impromptu thing, she’s sure he won’t mind.

Herbal Snacks at the Greenwood Festival of Flowers

We agree to make the stop, but first a friendly group of women tempts us into the cool for some lemonade and other herbal treats. They didn’t have to tell us twice; we made a beeline!

Thanks to the FCL Herb Club for a most pleasant respite and end to the tour. And thank you, Garden Fairy for the fabulous detour!

I was so impressed by the pizza popcorn that I made it myself when I got home. It really does taste like pizza!

Pizza Popcorn

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