Jefferson County homeschoolers plant flower garden at rec park

Ashley Hunter
ECB Publishing, Inc.

It started with a young girl's hope of making the Monticello Recreational Park just a little more beautiful.
Since she is a homeschool student, Gretchen Brown and her family take part in frequent homeschool co-op activities that are held at the local recreational park, located on Mamie Scott Drive.
The park is full of wide open space, playground equipment and fenced in sports yards – but not much in the way of flowers, bushes and plants.
“It was really Gretchen's idea,” said Jennifer Brown, mother of Gretchen.
The idea was proposed that the group of homeschoolers get together and create a flower garden at the recreational park, filling it with flowers that would attract birds, bees and butterflies.
“I thought it was a really cool project,” Jennifer Brown adds.
Before the homeschoolers got elbows-deep in the project, however, Brown said that they reached out to County Commissioner Betsy Barfield a few months ago, and Barfield expressed her excitement and backing for the butterfly garden project.
While the homeschool group worked with the Jefferson County UF/IFAS Extension Office (as many of the homeschool students are also 4-H attendees) to select and purchase the plants and flowers, Barfield worked with Recreational Park Director Mike Holm to build a raised bed for the garden and fill it with soil.
Once the garden's bed frame had been constructed and filled, the homeschool group brought their selection of flowers out to the recreational park, and planted their buds into the box.
“Our whole group came out,” said Jennifer Brown. “This is our garden.”
In the long and narrow raised-bed garden, the homeschool group planted milkweed (to attract monarch butterflies), purple, white and pink selections of salvia flowers, passionflowers, lantana and penta flowers.
While the garden is still fairly new, the group has already seen multiple signs of the garden attracting butterflies, along with butterfly eggs being left on the plants' leaves.
Jennifer Brown adds that the homeschoolers plan to visit the park every few days, pull weeds, water the garden plot and perform maintenance on the newest beautifying addition of Monticello's public park system.
Those who participated in planting and caring for the new garden plot were the Brown family, the Brookins family, the Scott family, the Boyd family, the Feinberg family, the Lee family, the Kashmitter family, the Loveless family, the Morris family and the Harkness family.
For more information about the Jefferson County homeschoolers, contact Jennifer Brown at (850) 284-9570.