Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Annuals

Granny's Garden: A Profile of Roberta Paolo

by Charlie Nardozzi


Roberta Paolo

Providence was working with Roberta Paolo when she chose to move to Loveland, Ohio, to be closer to her kids and grandkids. She happened to find a house right near the grandkids' elementary school. Roberta is a lifelong gardener and has been casually sharing her love of flowers and gardens with her family. Little did she know her gardening passion was about to explode and light a fire in not only her grandkids' lives, but also the lives of hundreds of children and adults at the Loveland Primary & Elementary Schools.

Flowers for Kids

Once she was settled, Roberta started growing flowers in her yard for her grandkids. But, as kids often do, her grandchildren started bringing friends around to see granny's garden. It was so popular that Roberta got the idea to create summer gardening classes at her house for kids and their parents. It involved not only gardening, but also other "hands-on" experiences, such as woodworking. Roberta believes kids need to learn with their hands and by experiencing their world. (Her own children were safely using hand tools by the age of 4!)

The summer classes were such a hit that Roberta approached the principal of the primary and elementary schools about beautifying the grounds with flowers. She diligently planted all types of flowers around the grounds, up fences, and in containers. The kids were delighted to have flowers surrounding them at school and to have some to take home.

Starting School Gardens

The first year Roberta also got the kids and teachers involved in installing 16, 10' by 20' classroom gardens around the school. The teachers were so enthusiastic they incorporated the gardens in their classroom curriculums. Roberta even had a plan for summer maintenance. She set up a program for kids and volunteers to come and take care of the school gardens. Now they were off and running. Fueled by Roberta's passion, gardens sprang up everywhere around the school. There were perennial gardens, a gourd patch, and even gardens in the recess area. The amazing thing was that no school money was spent to create these gardens. All the plants were donated, and labor was volunteered.

Everyone was getting into the act. Even the school janitors knew what Granny was up to. When one janitor complained to another about the mud kids were tracking into the school from the garden, the other janitor explained, "Don't worry. Spring is coming, and Granny will plant something in the muddy spots."

Expanding School Gardens

The school gardens have started to take on a life of their own. This year 15 more classroom gardens are being installed. The local Hilton Garden Inn is sponsoring an herb garden at the school. Herbs from the garden will be used in the school kitchen and by the chefs at the hotel restaurant. Pumpkins from the pumpkin patch will be used for the annual fall harvest festival. A 100-foot-long "dahlia row" has been planted along a playground fence through a generous donation from a dahlia breeder. There's even a Web site about the garden (http://home.fuse.net/gardenschool2/News12.htm), which keeps everyone abreast of all the happenings.

Roberta originally named the program Granny's Gardeners to show appreciation for the volunteers who helped set up and run the gardens. This year she renamed it Granny's School Garden to reflect how the gardens have become an integral part of the fabric and classroom life of Loveland Primary & Elementary Schools.

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