Most institutions have pedestrian landscaping. We don’t! That’s because our Outdoor Life Committee built on an early landscaping plan to create an original set of gardens with plants that give beauty to us and food and homes to wildlife.

Not only do insects buzz and birds flitter in the gardens, but a hedgehog is fairly certain to live here, rabbits take over after dusk, deer wander through, garter snakes, red tailed hawks, wild turkeys, frogs and lots more wildlife can be glimpsed.

Through spring, summer and fall we pay attention to every plant. We water, weed, prune, treat for invasive insects, and sometimes replace (but always admire) every flowering plant and shrub in front of the school. We aerate and irrigate and pour love on the heavily trampled quad lawns, using a lawn service that applies only organic fertilizer. We try to choose native species of plants, and when purchasing bulbs, look for biodynamic varieties.

As it is now spring, we have raked away leaves and sticks left under the snow, removed the burlap that protected shrubs through the winter, planted the flower barrels, repaired the twine fencing, and assessed which plants need pruning or feeding – or those that didn’t make it.

In the sunny garden beds you’ll find Russian sage, nepeta (catmint), dwarf fothergilla, cotoneaster, St. John’s wort, rose of sharon and many other wonderful plants. In front of the large oval school sign at the entrance there is an especially nice selection of shade loving native plants including mayapple, wild ginger, Solomon’s seal, and bloodroot, donated and planted by former OLC member and alumni parent Kevin Andrews. Feel free to ask for the name of any plant!

Each plant you see has been selected for its particular sun and soil characteristics for optimal growth. We want color (insects do too), so seasonal beauty matters – whether flowers, leaves or needles – since we are a busy school in all months. We strive for the garden to appeal to our delight in nature. Just as important, our flowering plants provide pollen that will nourish insects and birds, and some of the shrubs and small trees have fruit such as crab apples that attract birds. Most of us have seen the swarms of bees, dancing butterflies and hummingbirds on the cone flowers near the entrance, or at the bee balm along the walkway. We try to keep our stone bird baths filled with water through the seasons to keep the birds as well as the little hands entertained.

The OLC works on periodic weekdays after dismissal and occasional Sunday mornings. We are looking for one or two more volunteers who would like to get their hands dirty and learn about caring for a special garden. No prior experience is necessary, just the interest and willingness to work outside. Please contact Laura Freysinger at to inquire about joining a work party this spring. You will be welcomed.


Special thanks to OLC members Anita Brewer-Siljeholm for the writing of this article and Laura Freysinger for providing images