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New literacy garden at Gardens on Green aims to inspire love of nature, reading
Georgia's first lady Sandra Deal to help dedicate garden May 3
Stones with words painted on them are spread out in the literacy garden as the newest garden at Gardens on Green prepares for opening. The goal of the new garden is to teach youngsters a love for nature and reading. A shed will be stocked with books for children from preschool through second grade. Books will be about gardening, nature and children’s classics.

Gardens on Green literacy garden

What: The literacy garden is the seventh garden at Gardens on Green. It aims to inspire a love of learning and nature in children.

When: 10 a.m. May 3 dedication

Where: Outside of the Hall County Schools office, 711 Green St., Gainesville

More info: Contact Kathy Lovett at 678-936-6613 or

Four-year-old Eden Pethel gave one of the first tours at the new literacy garden at Gardens on Green.

Eden, who aspires to be a Master Gardener when she’s old enough, found an earthworm and “showed it around.” She unveiled the various features of the garden, including a fairy house.

“And that is exactly what we want children to do, use their imagination,” said Kathy Lovett, who envisioned the new garden.

The literacy garden is the seventh garden at Gardens on Green, located outside of the Hall County Schools office at 711 Green St. in Gainesville.

Lovett said she came up with the idea in summer 2015 while undergoing chemotherapy for colon cancer. The Master Gardener and co-chair of Gardens on Green presented the idea to Hall County Superintendent Will Schofield, received approval from the Gardens on Green steering committee and raised funds for it with other Master Gardeners’ help.

The entire process took almost two years. It finally will be dedicated at 10 a.m. Wednesday, May 3. The by-invitation-only event will feature Georgia’s first lady Sandra Deal.

Organizers hope to open the literacy garden shortly after the dedication. But it depends on its completion state, such as if the grass has grown.

However, Lovett is anticipating the opening and dedication.

“I am so excited,” Lovett said. “I’m humbly proud that people felt my vision was worthy, but ... I think it will be a magical place for children in our community.”

The newest garden emphasizes an inspiring love of learning and nature, said Eden’s mother, Brandy Pethel. And it will be a place for her daughter and other children to enjoy nature and books.

“I live in Jackson County and I homeschool her, so I don’t have the same access as a field trip to Gardens on Green that Hall County students get,” Pethel said. “I like it that it’s a place I can still bring her ... and it’s great to have a safe place where we can go and sit and eat lunch when there’s not a tour going on.”

Based on the garden’s theme, Read Discover Grow, a shed is stocked with books for children from preschool through second grade. The self-serve library — which is only open when a volunteer is on hand — will include books about gardening and nature, as well as classic children’s stories.

Those same tales were inspiration for spots for children to sit and read. They may sit on a stump under the shade of a Muscadine arbor (also known in the garden as the Reading Arbor), on the front porch of Mr. McGregor’s home from the Beatrix Potter story “Peter Rabbit,” or at one of the picnic tables.

The reading spots aren’t the only children-inspired feature. The hill from the nursery rhyme “Jack and Jill” is incorporated in the garden, complete with a tunnel through it and a well on top.

“We don’t want this to be a playground, per se,” Lovett said. “But at the same time, we want to have some elements that give children a chance to move around.”

The hill was a flat, grassy area before construction began several months ago. Volunteers covered a pipe with dirt and rocks and made a grass path up and down each side.

The tunnel opens up to a fairy house that children can explore.

Another element indicating the reading theme is a bookworm comprised of shrubs and wearing big purple glasses and reading a book.

Throughout the garden are podiums with laminated copies of nursery rhymes and short stories, said Rose Barton, a Hall County Master Gardener and volunteer. Those laminated stories make the garden educational even if a volunteer is not on hand.

“It’s a place to come and read and play and enjoy nature,” said Bobbett Holloway, a Master Gardener and volunteer. “And be outside in God’s creation.”

Gardens on Green is open to the public during daylight hours, unless a Hall County elementary class has scheduled a trip. Lovett said she’s hoping to have a volunteer on site Thursday, Friday and Saturday mornings to answer questions and keep the library open.

Literacy garden volunteers do not need to be members of Hall County Master Gardeners. To volunteer, contact Lovett at 678-936-6613 or

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