A Teaching Garden: Community STEAM Education Project (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math)
We are Life Long Learners who have taken to guerilla gardening in order to fight obesity, malnutrition, illness and disease in our Community.
I was 12 years old when my Mom and Dad returned from a hunting trip in the woods south of us. They were carrying a small shrub wrapped in a wet blanket. It was spring and the ground was soft, black and ripe for planting. It was Saturday and I wondered why they had risen so early in the morning and disappeared with the old red mule. I sat on the back porch and watched as they gingerly unraveled the tender plant from the wet blanket. A hole had alread been dug in the yard. I had noticed my dad throwing in any manner of scraps. The dirt appeared newly churned as they produced a tender green shrub with bright shiny green leaves. They were almost ceremonial as they planted the little tree. As time passed the tree grew and flourished. It was always cared for with such rigor. The giant white fragrant blossoms lasted well into winter. The bright red seeds on the pod attracted many different types of birds.
I was a grown woman when I learned why the little tree was so special to my parents. My Mother became very ill and I drove over 500 miles to North Carolina every weekend to spend time with her. In the summer of '89' I noticed she had a small tree very much like one I watched them plant when I was 12. It was planted in the yard in back of her trailor. When I questioned her about it, she told me that it was a magnolia. Our very large plantation style house had long since been burned to the ground. The tiny tree that I watched them plant when I was 12 was in full blown. The blossoms were so fragrant that the area smelled like sweet perfume.
"It is a money tree." She explained when she noticed me eyeing the little tree. "And that one is yours."
She had actually collected the bright red seeds from the adult tree and raised the young seedling herself.
She explained that we were having a really hard time financially when they found the older tree growing in the forest. They brought it home because they had been told that it was a good luck tree and brought prosperity to those who cared for it. It remains a matter of opinion whether or not it worked for my parents. We dug up the little seedling together. It was wrapped in an old wet towel and placed in a bucket with a little water on the bottom. I was instructed to plant it outdoors as soon as possible.
Back home in NJ, I did as I had been told. When winter came that year I was worried about my little tree. It was covered in snow and leaning to one side. I called my father and asked his advice.
"Is the tree green? Are the leaves bright and shiny?" I explained that I could not tell. "Go outside and look."
The leaves were green and shiny.
"The tree will be fine. Cold won't hurt it." My father was right. The tree is still going strong and when the seed pods are removed it does blossom deep into winter. The kids love picking out the bright red seeds and playing with them. We have used them in art projects, but they mostly serve to attract some beautiful birds to the yard. Sometimes there are blossoms when snow is on the ground. The only time the leaves are not shiny is when the landscaper gets too close to it with the lime as he sweetens the lawn. It needs a good helping of hollytone in the spring. Broken and damaged branches must be removed. The branches grow close to the ground so some had to be removed because it made a safe haven for small animals with whom I did not enjoy sharing my yard. As for it being a bringer of prosperity, who knows. I am not rich, but I have also never been as poor as in the old days on the farm.