Bristol kids plant bulbs, get inspired at Peace Garden

BRISTOL — By the time Andrea Murnane’s second-grade class arrived at the Bristol Peace Garden on Monday afternoon, they were so electrified by sunshine they seemed ready to burst — much like the flowers they had come to draw.
Once the Bristol Elementary School kids were assembled near the corner of the town green, the students tried to follow their teacher’s instructions — they really did.
They located the bulbs they’d planted the previous October, opened their science notebooks and began to sketch. They drew blue flowers and yellow flowers and sometimes — because it’s been a “slow spring”— only the promise of flowers.
But it wasn’t always easy.
A dog passed by on a leash. Or it was too hot. Or a bug landed on someone, which was horrifying and fascinating and delightful all at once.
“We made worm houses,” said Lily Whitney, who was working on the garden for the second time in three days. On Green Up Day (the previous Saturday), her Girl Scout troop had helped add compost to the beds. “You put a tiny hole in the ground with your finger, so a worm can get into it,” she explained.
Alexis Freegard, Lily’s classmate and fellow Girl Scout, took up the story.
“Then you put a bigger piece (of compost) on top, so the hole is still there,” Alexis said.
Worms are good for flowers, they added.
Squirrels, though — not so much.
Independent photo/Steve James
Soon after Murnane’s class had planted their bulbs last fall, the squirrels moved in and started digging them up, said Phoebe Barash, who organizes caretaking for the Bristol Peace Garden.
Acting on a tip from fellow gardener Patty Heather-Lea, Barash tried sprinkling the beds with red pepper flakes.
“It worked like a charm,” she wrote in this year’s Bristol Town Report.
Squirrels also have a problem at the LaRose house, said eight-year-old Ella.
“We grow cucumbers and kale and carrots and just a lot of cucumbers,” she said. “The squirrels sneak over into our garden behind our house.”
Though she wasn’t sure what sort of havoc the critters might have wreaked in her garden, she didn’t seem to mind the prospect of losing a kale crop.
“Kale is the baddest thing,” she said with disdain.
Wearing dark sunglasses, Murnane, who’s been teaching at Bristol Elementary School for 18 years, moved among her students, answering questions and checking on work.
“I used to bring my sixth-grade students here to help plant and weed,” she said. “This year I moved to second grade and thought it was a good time to reconnect with the community through the Peace Garden.”
ILA CORRIGAN, LEFT, and Mae Cannon, second-graders at Bristol Elementary School, discuss their drawings of daffodils in the Bristol Peace Garden on Monday. Last autumn, led by teacher Andrea Murnane, their class planted several bulb varieties in the garden.
Independent photo/Steve James
In October her class planted tulips, daffodils, grape hyacinth, crocus, snowdrops and brodiaea. They also drew maps of their plantings so they could find them again in the spring. They will return to the park once more before school ends — to do some weeding.
Three decades ago, their predecessors at Bristol Elementary School, led by teacher Carol Heinecken, were instrumental in founding the Bristol Peace Garden. Another BES teacher, Gail Martin, connected students with an architect to come up with the design: seven wedge-shaped raised beds, each named after a continent.
The idea grew out of the International Art Exchange, an exhibit of children’s art that circulated the globe in the late 1980s, explained Barash in the town report.
“The children imagined the garden to be a place where people could stroll, play, sit, chat and contemplate the interconnectedness of all nations,” she wrote.
They decided to name it after the Peace Garden in Washington, D.C.
Over the years, countless individuals, organizations and businesses have contributed to the garden’s upkeep, including the parents of some of Murnane’s current students.
Independent photo/Steve James
The Bobcat Cafe & Brewery will donate some of its June 19 proceeds to the Peace Garden, which plans to put the money toward a consultation with a garden designer.
“We want to add more native plants to the mix,” Barash said. “That’s always been part of the original plan.”
By that time — the dawning of summer — tulips in the Africa bed will have revealed their colors, then come apart. The creeping phlox will have lit up the Asia bed, then gone out. And North America’s mysteries will have given way to whatever annuals get planted there in the coming weeks.
The record of that garden on May 6, 2019, — created with warm crayons by dreamy children — will also fade someday. But for a moment, not long after its creation, that record became a part of the garden itself, a pile of 17 marble-style composition books, teetering on the edge of the Europe bed, where their owners hastily left them before rushing onto the playground.
Reach Christopher Ross at [email protected].

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