Enthusiasts take part in garden tour, festival

ENCINITAS — Garden enthusiasts once again were treated to the sights and smells of private gardens as the seventh annual Encinitas Garden Festival and Tour commenced April 21. While celebrating unique private gardens and the horticultural heritage of the city, the event has expanded to include various components of community and school gardening concepts that have become increasingly popular in the region.

In addition to showcasing more than 20 private gardens featured on a walking tour, the festival featured the school garden and outdoor learning lab at Capri Elementary.

Flowers and native habitats abound at the seventh annual Encinitas Garden Festival and Tour in a Leucadia neighborhood. Photo by Wehtahnah Tucker

The sold-out tour took place in Leucadia where residents agreed to open their garden gates. The diversity of landscapes surprised many visitors. “I’m amazed at how different the gardens are from each other,” said Nell Birch. “Usually, people do what their neighbors do and it all looks pretty similar, but this really shows how creative these gardeners are.”

The festival is an all-volunteer event that has grown in popularity over the years.

The planning committee works year-round securing garden sites, working out logistical details and soliciting funds for the one-day event that occurs each spring. “This is a huge endeavor,” said Beth Harris who has attended four festivals. “Every year there is something new and inspiring that gets me going in my own garden.”

The Gardeners’ Marketplace was located on the sprawling Capri campus.

Attendees were treated to a variety of products and information to improve their gardens. Mim Michelove was one of the featured speakers who addressed the importance of incorporating gardening into traditional classroom education in the lecture series. “Encinitas has a rich agricultural history and any way we can honor that, especially engaging our youth, is crucial to our community identity,” she said.

In fact, the students at Capri are getting a head start on using gardening as a tool for learning. What started out as a simple vegetable garden has grown into a complete outdoor learning lab for students of all ages.

Sandy Gallagher, one of the many volunteers on the school’s landscape committee, said the enthusiasm for the project has grown exponentially. “We have so many people who help, even the guys who practice rugby on the field volunteer,” she said.

With a $6,000 grant from the California Special Districts Association, the school has created a bilingual outdoor leaning lab. The school also received funding through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to create a native habitat. Students, parents and community volunteers transformed three areas of wasteland into a water-wise oasis.

The project is ongoing according to Gallagher. “There is so much potential here for the students to learn and see the benefits of all of their hard work,” she said.

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