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Gainesville couple honored for work with children and Gardens on Green
Lee and Kathy Lovett receive national award from the American Horticultural Society
Lee and Kathy Lovett have won the Jane Taylor Award, a national gardening award through the American Horticulture Society for their work with Gardens on Green.

‘Growing Gardeners’ conference set

Garden on Green will host a two-day conference Sept. 9-10, said Kathy Lovett, one of the creators of the gardens.

The conference will feature three nationally known speakers about gardens and children. The conference will be for “anyone who impacts the life of a child,” Lovett said, including “moms and dads.”

The conference theme will be: “Growing Gardeners, Nurturing the Natural.”

One speaker will be Jane Taylor, for whom an American Horticultural Society award is named. The Lovetts were named the 2016 recipient of that award this week.

Betsy Williams, “the force behind the fairy house in the U.S.,” also will speak, Lovett said. She will talk about flower folklore.

Robin Moore, director of the Natural Learning Initiative at North Carolina State University, will be the keynote speaker. He is the author of several books and numerous articles on the use of the outdoor environment by children, youth and families. He has degrees in architecture and urban planning. He has been involved in designing outdoor spaces for children in Cincinnati, Chicago, Raleigh, Durham, Argentina, Portugal, Sweden and Japan.

The conference will be in the banquet hall of First Baptist Church and at Gardens on Green.

- Ron Bridgeman

The idea for Gardens on the Green was “planted” in 2007, said Kathy Lovett, the planter of that idea. But plans for additions continue to come — including a “literacy” garden.

The literacy garden could be ready by fall, Kathy and Lee Lovett explained Thursday. Kathy said work to clear off ivy could start in two weeks.

The husband and wife, both educators, were recognized for their work with Gardens on the Green this week with the Jane L. Taylor award, presented by the American Horticultural Society. Taylor is the founding curator of the Michigan 4-H Children’s Garden at Michigan State University.

She was the first recipient of the award named for her.

The award is given to an individual, organization or program that has inspired and nurtured future horticulturists through efforts in children’s and youth gardening. It is one of the Great American Gardeners Awards that the AHS presents annually to individuals, organizations and businesses that represent the best in American horticulture, the group’s news release said.

The Lovetts will be recognized Thursday, June 2, during the Great American Gardeners awards ceremony and banquet at the Society’s headquarters at River Farm in Alexandria, Va.

Lee is the deputy superintendent for Hall County and former teacher and administrator. Kathy taught in Hall County schools for 23 years. They have three daughters and seven grandchildren.

 “Kathy looked out upon that area and there was a bunch of English ivy growing,” Lee said, indicating the land next to the Hall County Schools Central Office at 711 Green St. “She said we could create a garden out here for educational purposes.”

And they did  with lots of help from Hall County Master Gardeners, active and retired teachers, church groups and volunteers.

Kathy quickly said the work could not get done without the gardens’ 20-member steering committee.

The first work on the gardens – planted of the Garden of Winners – came in 2008, she said. That name was selected because the plants included were all award-winning.

She also said the East Hall High School horticulture classes helped with the planting.

Very shortly, the Junior Master Gardeners were helping. Those were third- to fifth-graders. A group from First Baptist Church, next-door neighbors to the garden, also were regular helpers.

To reach a wider audience, Kathy said, the steering committee started a program for second-graders each year. The program is on Tuesday from just after school starts through October and again in April and May.

The second-graders, 45 to 75, come to the garden for four hours. Kathy Lovett said that grade was selected because the gardeners could complement their curriculum standards for life cycles.

The gardens now include a vegetable garden, which the students use in their studies. In addition to vegetables, four other gardens have been planted  pollinator garden, native garden, conifer garden and deer-resistant garden.

Twelve to 18 Master Gardeners and three retired teachers help with the second-graders, she said. More than 1,000 students come through the program in a year.

Kathy became a master gardener in 2004 and Lee did the same in 2006.

The gardens are open to anyone who would like to visit. Scouts and church groups take tours. Birthday parties have been held, and one wedding was performed at the gardens.

The “literacy garden” will be on the Ridgewood Avenue side of the school district building.

The garden is planned to have an entrance that “opens as a book or with a book design.” Other elements are expected to include:

• a large book with the Dr. Seuss quote, “The more you read ... the more places you’ll go;”

 Jack’s beanstalk, a grassy hill to climb and Peter Rabbit and other characters;

 preschool books to be read on site;

 “a place to dig in just for fun;

 a permanent fairy house;

 loose river rocks, some with the alphabet for building words;

 a secret garden; and

 shrubbery that looks like a bookworm, including wearing glasses.

“Kathy and Lee Lovett are among the most giving individuals I have ever met. They are avid Master Gardeners who have led the development of what I refer to as the most beautiful and meaningful garden in Gainesville, Gardens on Green,” Superintendent Will Schofield wrote in his letter of nomination. “Through their tireless efforts they have transformed the formerly overgrown area next to our district offices into an outdoor multigenerational classroom.

“The garden is a charming and peaceful source of rare and beautiful ornamental plants, vegetables, fruits and profound life lessons and hope for the future.

“On almost any given school day, you can visit the garden and witness Master Gardeners and the next generation of children learning together amongst the plants and soil.”

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