No better place for learning: Hillcrest school garden the hub of this year’s Garden Tour

The showcase nature of Hillcrest’s school garden led the Oak Harbor Garden Club to feature it as the hub of this month’s 17th annual Garden Tour and Tea.

Hillcrest Elementary School students Max Waldron

Hillcrest Elementary School students Max Waldron

The excitement in Ayana Lane’s voice was palpable.

“I found one!” she shouted.

The source of such jubilation was a small mollusc carrying a fragile shell. During “snail patrol,” one has to be careful when handling.

“Good job Ayana,” Madison Bice chimed in.

It’s a thrill when a student finds a snail at Hillcrest Elementary School’s thriving garden.

There used to be so many there that the students used to hold snail races.

But due to student diligence and so many helping hands around the school community, the school garden is so well cared for these days it’s enough to leave visiting gardeners green with envy.

The showcase nature of Hillcrest’s school garden led the Oak Harbor Garden Club to feature it as the hub of this month’s 17th annual Garden Tour and Tea.

Normally intended for resident gardens, the garden club made an exception and included a prized school garden that earned a national Green Ribbon Award last year, a designation held only for America’s greenest schools.

The self-guided Tour and Tea will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, June 25, with the tea held at the Hillcrest courtyard. An $18 donation is being asked to tour the six gardens.

Hillcrest’s garden has been a work-in-progress for six years with help and donations coming from an army of community volunteers and the Oak Harbor Education Foundation.

Helene Valdez and Carol Henry are co-chairs of the club’s junior gardeners program who’ve devoted one day a week at the school to teach elementary school students about the finer points of gardening from raising vegetables to composting to organic weed control.

Valdez started six years ago and Henry joined her a year later.

“Carol and I have become good friends because of this garden,” Valdez said.

It all started with a barren courtyard with two fruit trees. Every year, a new project has taken root from raised garden beds to a covered learning center, all made possible by donated funds and labor and a supportive school administration.

“We were honored,” Valdez said about being selected for the tour. “We were just tickled pink.”

Garden Tour

The Oak Harbor Garden Club’s 17th annual Garden Tour and Tea will be from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. June 25 at six gardens in Oak Harbor. Donations are $18. Music and refreshments will be served at the Tea at the Hillcrest Elementary School courtyard. Tickets may be purchased at Maillard’s Landing Nursery, Greenhouse Nursery, The Purple Bench, bayleaf in Coupeville, Wind & Tide Bookstore, the Oak Harbor Chamber and Hummingbird Farm Nursery & Gardens.


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