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Tadmore Elementary gets new garden thanks to community support
Volunteer Jim McQuillen hauls mulch Thursday morning into the newly renovated garden at Tadmore Elementary. The garden has been paid for by a grant and donations from local businesses.

In the center of Tadmore Elementary School is a breath of fresh air, a place where fountains splash, berries grow and hummingbirds and butterflies frequent.

The school’s courtyard was long ago converted into a garden, but the space had become overgrown and unused in recent years. Volunteer Jim McQuillen decided to help.

“It’s been out here for years, and one of our teachers had applied for and got a garden grant,” said Principal Robin Gower. “They had done a few things, but it was just really hard for anybody to maintain it.”

McQuillen said his wife, who works at the school, told him about the state of the garden.

“I’m retired and I just said, ‘Well, I’ll come over and see if I can revive it,” McQuillen said.

McQuillen said the garden was previously “a pizza garden” full of vegetables to go on a pizza. He wanted to make it into a more relaxing, usable space, and now it has three tables of varying sizes, butterfly bushes, herbs, fruits and assorted plants, plus a few raised beds with room for teachers and students to do additional planting.

He said the materials were mostly donated or offered at a discounted price.

“We wrote a letter and Jim took it to local businesses and told them what we were doing,” Gower said.

Home Depot, Lowe’s and a few local nurseries donated items, Gower said. Home Depot offered to continue to donate bags of mulch and soil that had ripped and were not sellable.

McQuillen said he has enjoyed maintaining the garden and seeing the students and teachers enjoy it. The surrounding walls and twisting walkways were recently pressure-washed, and visually, the space is much more appealing than it was in the past.

“The teachers whose rooms happen to face the courtyard love it,” Gower said.

Thursday, a pre-K class was held in the garden. The teacher Amanda Torres hid letters on small slips of paper throughout the garden, and told the students to “find your vowels.”

“The teachers love it,” Gower said. “We have teachers who eat their lunch out here almost every day. The kids love going out here. And there’s not another one like it in a Hall County School.”