Palo Alto Weekly

Cover Story - February 26, 2010

Growing and learning

Education — through classes or demonstration plantings — plays a large role at Gamble Garden

Education is a strong part of Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden's mission of serving the public, and learning is neatly entwined throughout its programs.

Classes are offered regularly on gardening or cooking in the Carriage House. Most fill quickly. Additional lectures have been scheduled in honor of Gamble's 25th anniversary(see sidebar).

Roots and Shoots, an intergenerational gardening program, brings Walter Hays Elementary School third-graders to the garden each week during the school year to grow vegetables with older volunteers. For the kids — the shoots — it's a science and nutrition lesson; for the adults — the roots — it's a chance to connect with the upcoming generation and pass on knowledge.

The planting beds serve as a silent educational component of the garden, with many of the plants carefully labeled, and visitors encouraged to stroll through and jot down the name of plants that thrive in this area.

While some beds hark back to Miss Gamble's day, such as the heritage iris bed or the cutting gardens, others represent plants that thrive in a Mediterranean climate or focus on native plants.

Gamble's latest demonstration bed, made possible by a recent gift, offers drought-resistant plantings.

"Many people who want to redo their gardens come here for ideas," noted Vanessa Roach, Gamble's executive director.

Beds are rotated and replanted to reflect changes in gardening trends.

"We want to be in the forefront of environmentally sound garden practices. We set an example," Karen Olson, former Gamble Garden president, added. That's partly why two water-efficient gardens have been added to this year's spring fundraising tour.

An added component is the horticultural library, which was organized by retired professional librarians. It's open Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Books may be used on site.

UC Master Gardeners are at Gamble every Friday morning to answer horticultural questions — often dipping into those books for answers.

Nearby retirement communities schedule docent-led garden tours, which can be arranged with a minimum of eight people at $5 apiece.

— Carol Blitzer

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