Gateway Greening Storybook

Each of our 200+ community gardens and urban greening projects comes with a story of its own. Read true tales about kids and butterflies, cancer and hope, new patches, and gardens still thriving after 30 years — all submitted by Gateway Greening Gardeners across St. Louis.

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Wild West Community Garden

Growing Friendships, Educational Opportunities, and Vegetables Since 2011 – October 18, 2016

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Fresh Starts Community Garden

“Once upon a time, in the city of St. Louis, there was a certain vacant city lot, and on it was nothing but tall grass and equally tall weeds…” – October 18, 2016

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Central Reform Congregation Community Garden

Growing Community at Central Reform Congregation Community Garden, and Beyond – September 21, 2016

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Fountain Park Community Garden

“From Trash to Treasure; that is what I would call our garden. We say that because our garden is not in the typical place where one would normally find a garden….” August 10, 2016
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Hawthorn Children’s Hospital Student Garden

“I noticed some sunflowers growing in a weedy, fenced off area…” July 28, 2016 
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Boyle-Laclede Garden

A place of respite, a place to connect. July 18, 2016
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Fox Park Farm

“Opening in 1991, Fox Park Farm (FPF) is one of the oldest continuously operating community gardens in the St. Louis area.  It was founded and maintained for many years by…”  July 18, 2016

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Nahed Chapman New American Academy International Garden

“My original questions was…Can we provide refugee students with information that can assist them in overcoming the unique challenges that exist in their classrooms?  As the nation’s demographics change, so does…”  July 18, 2016

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House of Living Stone Community Garden

“She was scared of bugs when she started…”  July 18, 2016

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My Kind of Garden

My Kind of Garden

Yes, we are making a greener, healthier and prettier place to live, but as the sign at our Holly Hills garden reads, it is a community garden. It is my wish to continue to see our garden grow not just beautiful flowers, trees, plants and vegetables, but to also grow a sense of community. A sense of belonging — a neighborhood, a town and friends. A sense of, “howdy neighbor, how ya doin’.” I feel that community is so vital to the human condition, and the community gardening and greening efforts of all involved work to improve that human condition.

Garden Leader Tim Bolt, Holly Hills Community Garden, founded in 2007

Growing Hope: Breast Cancer Survivor Found Comfort at City Seeds Urban Farm
I first read about Gateway Greening when I was teaching fulltime and raising two children, which is a way of saying I didn’t have time for much more. Finally in 2006, I retired from teaching and applied to the Master Gardener Program. In early 2007, I began my volunteering with a variety of activities — visits to community gardens, meetings for the plant sale, working the plant sale and Great Perennial Divide, planting the Tucker median and helping at City Seeds Urban Farm. City Seeds quickly became my fairly regular Friday morning activity.

About the same time, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Much of the rest of that summer was spent with diagnostic tests and meeting with doctors to develop a treatment plan. When it was complete, I had a diagnosis of Stage 3 bilateral breast cancer. I was to take medication to shrink the tumors, and four months later the surgeon would do a lumpectomy on one side and a mastectomy with removal of lymph nodes on the other side. Then, just as I was feeling a little better, I would start chemotherapy followed by radiation. Fortunately, my treatment plan meant that I could almost finish City Seed’s garden season. I had surgery on Halloween, then chemotherapy and radiation. I was a little late getting to City Seeds the following year, but I came back and finished my second season.

Anyone who has ever enjoyed poking in the dirt knows how life-sustaining it is — for me, in more literal than I would have chosen. City Seeds helped get me through the year. I was terrified, and it helped me back to life. Thank you Gateway Greening, City Seeds staff, clients, Master Gardeners and interns. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say you helped save my life.

Connie Goss, Survivor, City Seeds Volunteer

Ames School Butterfly Garden

Kids and Butterflies Thrive at Ames School Butterfly Garden

Every September, the garden at Ames Visual and Performing Arts Elementary School is filled with Monarch butterflies. Students raise the bugs from small caterpillars through the chrysalis stage and into adult butterflies. After tagging them through the Monarch Watch program, the kids release them to begin their migration to the Monarch overwintering sites in the mountains of Mexico.

Our garden site was not always the thriving, educational environment it is now. Years ago, the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group planted roses, hardy hibiscus and butterfly bushes in what was then a barren lot. Today, the Ames students help care for their garden — which still includes some of the restoration group’s original plants. Thanks to the Gateway Greening Perennial Divide and the hard work of students and neighbors, many new plants have been added to the school’s butterfly garden.

Time, effort and help from friends have made the garden a special place for children, neighbors, Monarchs and wild butterflies living in the midst of the city.

Garden Leader Gloria Bratkowski, Ames School Butterfly Garden, founded in 1996

Columbia Peace and Hope Garden

New Growth at Columbia Peace and Hope Garden

Even before the Gateway Greening staff came to work with the students and volunteers to install the Columbia Peace and Hope Garden, a number of good forces had come together: a boy scout had cleaned up the old lot adjacent to the playground that was to become the garden; a volunteer had mapped out a garden design for our application; teachers had given their enthusiastic assent to having their students become part of this growing adventure.

The Gateway Greening staff arrived, exuding energy, enthusiasm and good will. And the process began. Boards, hammers, nails, wheelbarrows, shovels, soil — and children! It was an awesome combination. The installation was successful. Not only did we building raised beds, but the project also seeded an enthusiasm for what community gardening could bring: “Can I try hammering that?” “I can push the wheelbarrow by myself.” “I want to shovel, too.” “Can we build more?” “Can we fill more than just our classroom’s bed?” “When do we put our plants in?” These were the kind of expressions that filled the day and began a gardening adventure in a neighborhood that previously had very, very few gardens to show for it.

The Gateway Greening staff was marvelous with the students. They were supportive and encouraging, teaching them how rather than doing it for them. The staff was obviously enjoying it themselves, which made them a delightful group to be with. At the end of the school day, when the beds were built and filled, the students had gone home and Gateway Greening had loaded up the wheelbarrows and shovels and gone to do other good things, I bent down I kissed the ground that we had hallowed. That was the feel of that day, and it has only gotten better since.

The fact that Columbia Elementary actually has a vandalism-free garden (except for a few ripe delicious things every year) that the children plant, harvest and eat from continues to amaze the very people who are engaged with it. Substitute teachers, first exposed to the garden on recess, cannot believe that this actually exists — that it’s growing, lovely and full of things that the children planted themselves.

The skepticism that a garden could grow in that old lot near Grand and St. Louis Avenue has given way to everything from lettuce — planted, picked and eaten with enthusiasm and ranch dressing — to those strange little radishes that delight some taste buds and repel others, to greens cooked in crockpots in classrooms. Even on the coldest day in early January, still the hopeful question can be heard almost daily in halls of the school, “Ms. Mary, are we going to the garden today?”

School Garden Leader Mary Hellwig, Columbia Peace and Hope Garden, founded in 1990

Maffitt Patch Community Garden
One bright morning, in the spring of 1984, Pierre Laclede Elementary School to see if a fourth grade class would be interested in creating a prairie preserve on a vacant lot nearby. Of course, we would! So we planted and harvested rye grass, along with other kinds of grasses. Our first newspaper article in the Post-Dispatch was titled, “Wheat Fields in the City.” We were really excited, but the ‘prairie’ did not hold the children’s attention long, since we couldn’t grind the wheat to make bread.

With the help of Sue Reed and Kitty Hoblitzelle from Gateway to Gardening, along with students from Washington University, we built twelve raised beds, planted vegetables, herbs, and flowers and started the Maffitt Cabbage Patch. We did not have a water source, so a neighbor, George Johnson, a retired butcher, threw a water hose over two fences with the help of another neighbor to provide our water.

In 1985, our garden won three blue ribbons in the St. Louis Garden Competition. Rodale’s Organic Gardening named the Maffitt Cabbage Patch a Community Gardening Contest Winner. In 1989, National Gardening chose our garden as one of the top ten youth gardening programs in the country. In 1992, we were featured in the April edition of the Missouri Conservationist magazine. On October 15, 1997, the Missouri Historical Society and the Historyonics Theatre Co. presented a play about the garden, written by Lee Patton Chiles, titled “Brick Soup.”

All students from Kindergarten to fifth grade are invited and encouraged to visit and use the garden, because it is a very important part of our curriculum, as well as our community.
The students sing this song as they plant: “Inch by inch, row by row, gonna make this garden grow. All it takes is a rake and a hoe, and a piece of fertile ground. Inch by inch, row by row, someone bless these seeds I sow. Someone warm them from below ‘til the rain comes tumblin’ down.”

We thank God and all of our benefactors, especially Gateway Greening, Eunice Spratt, Peter Sparks, Jerry Cannon, Fernando Johnson, Jimmie McDaniel, Rosie Neal, Helena Hughes, Mary Jeffries, Frank Enger, William Parks and the Seventh District community workers of the St. Louis Police Department.

-Garden Leader Pauline Humphrey, Maffitt Patch Community Garden, founded in 1984

A Garden Sign Like no Other… Many of Them.
After we built the McPherson Community Garden, I wanted to make a sign that was like no other sign around. I wanted it to match the architecture of our neighborhood, and be worthy of the craftsmanship and design that went into the century-old buildings and houses that our neighborhood is blessed with. I made dozens of drafts and refined details many times, trying to create the perfect and unique design. I studied the architectural details of our houses, looking for clues, inspiration, and guidelines for a good match. Eventually, I achieved my goal and created an original sign which matches the architectural style of our great neighborhood and has a vintage typeface from a bygone era.
My friends at Gateway Greening (our sponsor) were impressed with the sign and said, “That’s great! Could you make four more for some of our other gardens?!” I had to think about it for a few days, because the goal to have a unique sign would be lost if I made more. After a couple of days I decided it would be better to make many signs. I could let go of the ‘unique’ status, and I would make a better contribution if I created more signs to put in many places, so more folks would enjoy them, instead of one sign at one garden. Instead of the sign being unique to the McPherson Garden, the signs could be unique to Gateway Greening, which is a bigger picture after all.
After building those four signs, I said to my friends at Gateway Greening, “Four signs is a lot to build in one year. The next group should probably be less.” They replied “Okay…How about twelve more!” I made those twelve and more, and through the years I have lost count. Each sign is unique to the garden it is created for. They all have the same recognizable design, shape, and typeface, so they can be identified with Gateway Greening, while each has its own details and also something, which identifies with that garden. Some signs have details which reflect the architecture of the surrounding neighborhood. Others have a crest or neighborhood logo. Others have a detail from the garden, like a carving of a sea-serpent to go with the sea-serpent statue in that garden. The Holly Hills Community Garden has a woodcarving of large holly leaves across the top of the sign. Still others have carvings of special flowers that are important to those gardens. I now have created custom-made signs all over St. Louis, and I am honored to build them for a cause as great as Gateway Greening.
-Garden Leader Andy Cross, McPherson Community Garden, founded in 1997




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