Bright orange California poppies and stalks of Kulli Black Incan Corn greet the passerby on what used to be barren, brown land at San Gabriel High School marked by a lone eucalyptus tree. The new garden is home to a myriad of edible plants and vegetables, and will soon host a Native Plant Demonstration Garden, supported by funding from the Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District. A “waffle garden” designed to capture rainfall efficiently and a small greenhouse are also located on the plot.
Dozens of community members gathered at SGHS the morning of April 26 to celebrate the unveiling of the school’s garden, an entrepreneurship project of the school's Business and Technology Academy (BTA). It has been a short year since collaboration for planning the garden started, and only half a year since plans were drawn and implemented for this plot adjacent to the school’s gates. Volunteers came from both school and Alhambra clubs. A core group of BTA upperclassmen worked on the garden almost every Wednesday after school and many Saturday mornings for six months.
BTA members said cultivating the garden has taught them key life lessons. “The plants were like my babies, and I could not leave my babies to die,” BTA president Cindy Suen said. Frankie Zhang, a BTA member, said that coming every day taught him "that everything comes with hard work and determination.”
Others focused on the importance of the garden to the community. Jesse Chang, a Master Gardener who worked with SGHS Principal Jim Schofield and community groups to bring the idea to fruition, explained that “gardens like great art create conversation,” and ultimately connect individuals to each other. Paul Robb, brother of former high school teacher and BTA founder John Robb, said “we’re part of something larger than ourselves.”
Students planted and dedicated a native Catalina cherry tree to John Robb, who passed away in 2012.
Now that the garden is planted, its creators see it only as a beginning. Plans are underway to sell tomatoes and herbs in local farmer’s markets. Chang hopes that other community and student groups, such as the SGHS Environmental Club, will become more involved and that teachers can use it as an outdoor classroom. Principal Jim Schofield said that the garden will continue to evolve: “This garden — it’s a living, growing thing.”