May 21, 2010

(VIDEO STORY)  A campaign to raise funds for the Kentucky Children’s Garden began in late 2007. Construction of the garden at The Arboretum, on the University of Kentucky campus, is just past the halfway mark. Thus far, organizers have raised all but $250,000 of the $1.3 million project. By spring 2011, they hope children and their parents will fully experience the garden and all its interactive features.

Presently, workers are pouring concrete to form hardscape areas of the garden, including several water features and winding sidewalks. As visitors walk through the garden, they’ll experience different Kentucky landscapes and encounter “footprints” in the walkways as they go.

“It is all about Kentucky, so there are footprints in the concrete that are about Kentucky, 

whether it’s the leaves of trees or the prints of animals,” said Marcia Farris, The Arboretum director. “They’ll find surprises all the way around and hopefully, that will encourage people to come back many, many times.”

Farris said once the hardscapes are complete, the real work begins as plants, shrubs, flowers and other garden elements are crafted into a unique educational landscape.  The 1.85-acre garden will provide an interactive, hands-on place to learn and have fun.

“Our goal is to use the garden to help develop an understanding of the environment and a love and respect for the earth,” Farris said. “We want to inspire kids, parents and teachers to learn about the importance of plants and how they affect the world.”

Farris said the garden will also provide a safe place to experience nature and discover the cycles of life and also provide motivation to try fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods to improve visitors’ attitudes and behaviors.

The garden will include a playhouse-sized log cabin, built to resemble a pioneer homestead. A small shed will also house child-sized garden tools that children will use to work in small garden plots to learn about plants the pioneers cultivated.

“We’ll have a need for an interpreter any time the garden is open,” Farris said. “We hope to have lots of volunteers as well, because we would like to have things like a story time going on at the log cabin. We’ll need people to interpret the geology of the state along the rock walls as well as other features in the garden.”

Each year, the Friends of The Arboretum hosts the Gala in the Garden to raise funds for arboretum projects. Proceeds from this year’s event will all go toward the Kentucky Children’s Garden. The event is June 6.

“We’ve had so many generous donations,” Farris said. “In addition to monetary donations, we’ve also received several valuable donations of time and materials. But, we still need quite a bit to finish the garden the way we want to – the way the children of this state deserve.”

For more information about the Gala in the Garden or other ways to contribute to the Kentucky Children’s Garden, contact The Arboretum at 859-257-6955.