Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Budding Gardeners Show off Their Talents Friendly Competition to Grow Plants Helps Kids Get Hooked on Horticulture

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Budding Gardeners Show off Their Talents Friendly Competition to Grow Plants Helps Kids Get Hooked on Horticulture

Article excerpt

WITH painter-like accuracy, Andrew DeLollis spreads sand around a dish-garden of succulents with a long silver spoon.

"I'm dressing it up," he announces, without looking up. Next, he will number each succulent and then identify it on a corresponding card. Andrew, 10, is one of a hundred young people participating in the Junior Amateur Horticulture Competition at the New England Flower Show.

As the slogan goes: You're never too young to have a green thumb.

Anyone 16 years or younger may enter a plant in one of eight classifications: foliage plant, flower plant, cactus or succulent plant, dish garden, terrarium (in a recycled container, please), citrus-family plant, plant rooted in water, plant grown from seed, and "Challenge Oak" (oak seedlings grown from acorns.)

Exhibitors are responsible for correctly identifying their plant with both its botanical name and its common name. Winners are selected from three age groups.

As one might suspect, many young people get their green thumbs from their parents.

ANDREW started growing plants at age 4 with help from his mother, Rita DeLollis, a gardening enthusiast. Proudly showing off Andrew's paphiopedilum - slipper orchid - she says, "Kids learn and really enjoy seeing something develop."

Kaitlin and Sarah O'Connor, aged 8 and 10, became interested in gardening because their sandbox didn't have a bottom.

"We grew watermelon - a real little one, but the frost killed it," Sarah explains. "I like watching things grow and tasting what it makes," she adds. Sarah's entry is a Mikkel Bingo, a succulent, and Kaitlin's is a Dark Marie, a Christmas cactus.

Cactuses seem to be favorites. Liz Ann Chapin, co-chairwoman of the Junior Amateur Horticulture division, offers a simple explanation: "They don't demand a lot of attention." Mrs. Melville Chapin, as she likes to be called, has been working with the juniors for five years; she's been involved in the New England Flower show since the 1950s.

Chapin is a woman who clearly loves her work. "I have the best job in the world," she says, before greeting another young competitor with "Oh, isn't that lovely!" The number of junior competitors has grown from 10 (five years ago) to more than 100 this year. …

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