Painting with plants: Living artwork at Fairhaven

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Messenger photo by Kristy Zurbrick
Monica Price, an artist, Master Gardener and retired teacher, created a butterfly garden at Fairhaven School in London as a tribute to one of her mentors and as a learning tool for students.

(Posted Aug. 30, 2019)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

When students at Fairhaven School returned to classes on Aug. 19, a colorful work of living art greeted them outside the front door.

Bright orange, dusty pink, sunshine yellow, royal burgundy, wild indigo.

“This has been my palette for the summer,” said Monica Price.

The Choctaw Lake resident used flowers as her paints and a flowerbed as her canvas to create a butterfly garden at the entrance to the school which sits along State Route 38 north of London.

Her inspiration was the late Dorothy Allison, who founded Fairhaven as a school for children ages birth to kindergarten who have developmental disabilities. Price, now retired, worked as a teacher at Fairhaven for 17 years. It was Allison who hired her.

To pay tribute to her mentor and to put her training as a Madison County Master Gardener to work, Price volunteered to create and maintain the garden.

She researched what plants attract butterflies and hummingbirds then plotted out her design. In went three kinds of butterfly bushes, two varieties of milkweed, parsley, lilacs, coneflowers, bee balm, zinnias, daisies, foxglove and more. She intermingled the new plants with others that were previously planted in tribute to the late Barb Hollingsworth, a beloved teacher’s aide at Fairhaven.

Price has a fine arts degree in painting and design and it is evident in the eye-catching combination of colors, textures and shapes she chose for the garden.

It turns out that her green thumb is spot on, too. The plants she chose are doing their job.

“I’ve seen caterpillars, five kinds of butterflies and a hummingbird,” Price said.

The garden serves not only as a vibrant welcome to the building but also as a teaching tool. Students can find colors, count flowers, learn about insects–everything they do when they read one of Price’s favorite children’s books, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle.

“They also can learn about plants and watch the growing process,” Price said.

Planning for the garden started in the spring. Price enlisted the help of Madison Lawn Care, which donated mulch, perennials and some labor to the project. Since putting the plants in the ground, Price has returned regularly to water, fertilize and deadhead them.

“It’s relaxing to me. I’d rather do it than clean my house, and I have the farmer’s tan to prove it,” she said.

This isn’t the first project Price has done as a Master Gardener. She also volunteers at the Farm Science Review and was part of an award-winning after-school gardening program at Monroe Elementary in the Jonathan Alder school district. Master Gardeners, an Ohio State University Extension program, provides volunteers with extensive horticultural training in exchange for public service.

Though summer is winding down, Price said she plans to keep the color going in the butterfly garden by planting late-season annuals.

“I love that you can see the garden from the road,” she said.

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