One of Baldwin Park’s newest groups is offering gardening enthusiasts an opportunity to help grow a community garden while building new friendships.
As the saying goes, “April showers bring May flowers.”
This spring, a new club geared toward Baldwin Park gardening aficionados is blooming — just in time for those May flowers.
Resident Shannon Walsh, who also spearheads an ethnic dining group, soon will be launching the Gardeners Growing Together group in the community. Walsh said the purpose of Gardeners Growing Together is to unite Baldwin Park residents with an affinity for gardening and cultivation.
Walsh loves using fresh produce and thought it would be great to have a local place to go to pick something fresh.
“There are a lot of people milling about Baldwin Park, but we don’t all know each other, and so I suggested to another person here in the community that it would be great if we had some type of garden club,” she says. “It would be really neat if we had a place where we could go and pick something fresh. I talked to a friend about it — he’s a horticulturist in this area — and he thought it’d be a great idea.”
Together with Baldwin Park Community Lifestyle Director Becca Schmidt, Walsh began to formulate what the club could look like. Schmidt and Walsh got in touch with Newcome Edwards, an local urban designer who has helped connect them with the city of Orlando for assistance. The group currently is scouting the best location for a garden in the community.
The group’s goals are to help maintain local raised-bed organic vegetable gardens, plant butterfly-friendly flowers and fragrance gardens, and learn about native and sustainable Florida plants.
“We’ve been looking at locations around Baldwin Park, and we’ve heard from the division manager of parks (about) three locations,” Walsh says. “I got with Becca because she likes the idea, and she and I went to the three locations. We realized that we really had to be mindful of where things would be located. …We’re still working with the city, we’re working on sources of water. We’re kind of in that exploration phase, but the ball is rolling so we’ll see what happens.
“I’m really hoping some very talented gardeners will step forward who know quite a bit about gardening,” she says. “I used to own a home and have butterfly gardens and vegetables, so I think it will be something nice we can do here in the area.”
Walsh has some previous gardening experience herself, having planted herbs, vegetables and plants that would attract butterflies. Aside from being able to reap what has been sowed when it’s time for harvest, she says gardening can be an incredibly therapeutic experience.
“Everyone plants a garden for a different reason,” she says. “It’s an important life cycle I think all of us can experience. It’ll be great for us to do it together as a community. The beautiful thing about a garden for me is that every day you can see a little bit of progress. …There’s a lot of change.”
"Gardens have been really important places for me, and I think when people need it, it should be there. What a beautiful way to come together — to create something together.” — Shannon Walsh
It also offers an avenue for disconnecting from reality and getting in touch with nature, she says. Getting away from electronics and being able to retreat to a garden is therapeutic itself.
“We can disconnect and be present,” she says. “When we’re present, we can cultivate new ideas, relationships, ways of thinking — there’s so many things that can happen when we’re truly present, and gardens tend to bring that out. So really, a garden is a present of presence. We don’t know how many people will unwrap that gift over the years going forward — it could be many generations if we cultivate that today and put it in place.”
There aren’t solid plans as to what the community garden would look like — that’s up to the residents who show interest in the group. It could become a hub for growing vegetables, a place of solace filled with flowers and plants, a butterfly garden, or a combination of any of the above.
The possibilities are limitless, and they will stem from the interests of those who step forward and answer the call to share their gardening skills and cultivate new relationships.
“There’s a time in everyone’s life where they may be going through something, and just walking in a beautiful garden can be very healing,” Walsh says. “The garden is a beautiful metaphor, and whether it’s a vegetable or butterfly or rose garden, there’s a time in everyone’s life where they need to seek solace. Hopefully we create a place where we’ll never know all the people who will go there in solace in their time of need and healing, but it will exist for them.
“Gardens have been really important places for me, and I think when people need it, it should be there,” she says. “What a beautiful way to come together — to create something together.”