The garden stretches down a hillside across from a park in the middle of a suburb, in the middle of a state, in the middle of a country.
But this garden is unlike any other.
The hands, hearts and minds that planned, designed, planted and maintained this garden for the last 10 years have done so out of a memory shared by them and everyone else in Plymouth, Minnesota and the United States.
In 2000, a group of elementary school friends wanted to plant a garden as a community service project, but during the next year as they plotted and planned it out a more horrific event was being plotted out and planned out and on Sept. 11, 2001, that awful plan was executed on American soil hundreds of miles away.
In the wake of this tragic time 10 years ago, the group of students decided that their garden was more than just about their community spirit, it was about the American spirit and so the American Spirit Garden was born.
“The garden became our promise as Americans that we’re not going to forget,” said Thomas Churchill of Plymouth. “We may not have understood at the time, but in time we knew the significance of what happened and a lot of people around here remember when this garden was planted.”
Churchill and his friends were at Birchview Elementary School. Their teacher, who helped facilitate the project, was Heather ZenZen. She was inspiring and super active in the community, said Abby Glaze a co-founder of the student group.
“She inspired us to do the project,” Glaze said. “We had wanted to dedicate the garden to something and when 9/11 happened we knew what should be done.”
Glaze learned about leadership, civic engagement and community service working on the garden.
“I didn’t realize I had such active community around me,” Glaze said. “We had to raise funds for supplies and plants and people pitched into help.”
Plymouth Forester Paul Buck helped the group coordinate the design and find the best location for the garden. He continues to help choose the different design of annuals planted in the middle of the garden each year, this year it spells out U.S.A. in blue flowers surrounded by white and red plantings.
“It became more than we all thought it would,” Buck said. “Not a spring goes by without someone calling me and commenting on how nice it looks.”
Highly visible at its location on the hillside across the street from Parker’s Lake Park, the spot presented its own challenges for maintenance.
“It was hard work that first year, but as the years went by it got easier and easier,” Glaze said. “I hope when people see the garden they feel good about the place they live in and know they are part of a greater place to live.”
The garden’s main surrounding design is based on the “Star Spangled Banner,” with Sliver Feather grass as “Alabaster cities,” Russian sage as “Purple mountain majesties,” American cranberry plants as the “fruited plains,” Little Bluestem grass as “the sea to shining sea” and Karl Forester grass representing “amber waves of grain.” Plymouth resident Jeanna Smith came up with the concept.
Though each year the core group of kids came back each spring to help work the garden this year was the first time that didn’t happen. Most are now away at college.
“I’ve lived two minutes away from it so it’s been cool to drive by it and see what I helped create,” said Jacob Fantle, co-founder of the student group. “It’ll be weird not to see it for a while. I just hope it’s still maintained and kept looking nice.”
Fantle’s younger brother Alec tried to generate interest in helpers while he was at Birchview Elementary School, but as he grew older the interest waned.
The city is hoping to engage a new generation of budding gardeners to take some time out to help maintain the garden, but so far no one has stepped forward. Buck said 10-15 volunteers would be good and would make the work go faster.
Abby’s mother Leslie Glaze gives the city and students equal credit in making the garden a reality.
“I’ve seen the whole project evolve from a childlike, far-fetched idea to a very practical and beneficial reality for the city,” Leslie said.
Churchill knows he won’t forget what happened 10 years ago or how the American Spirit grew stronger in his community and the nation.
“The garden is a reminder; we will always remember,” Churchill said. “We can never forget.”
Editor's Note: Do you want to take action?Action America is a joint effort among corporations, individuals and non-profit organizations committed to both honoring those affected by the events of September 11th and unifying the country through positive action.
Also check out this 9/11 gallery: http://huff.to/riv8zM