Monday, March 2, 2015

Plant a tree - or teach a kid how

Alexis Berry turns 17 on Thursday, but she's already on her way to greatness. No kidding. The librarian at her school, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, who serves as an informal adviser to the garden club Alexis started there this year, says, "Hopefully, she'll be our future president." It's because of gardening that I heard about Alexis, but she's accomplished so much else, I understand why librarian Nina Coffin says that about her.

Plant a tree - or teach a kid how

Alexis Berry turns 17 on Thursday, but she's already on her way to greatness. No kidding. The librarian at her school, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, who serves as an informal adviser to the garden club Alexis started there this year, says, "Hopefully, she'll be our future president." It's because of gardening that I heard about Alexis, but she's accomplished so much else, I understand why librarian Nina Coffin says that about her.

Alexis plays varsity field hockey in the fall, lacrosse in the spring, and she's a flutist in the upper school orchestra, having taken up that instrument in fourth grade. She's on the school's multicultural committee and, since seventh grade, has been enrolled in a course of study that preps "whiz kid" - that's what the website says - minority students for careers in medicine. Alexis, who has eczema, wants to be a dermatologist. (This summer she has a research internship at the National Institutes of Health.)

She's been co-exhibiting at the flower show with her mother for several years, tagging along in the garden since she was a toddler, but this year entered the miniature arrangements class by herself - and, competing against all adults, won second place in her class theme. (Her mother, Lydia Allen-Berry, won first in her theme.)

It was fun to chat with them about their entries - the trials, the fun - and their history in the garden.  If more kids had moms (or dads) like Alexis', you wouldn't hear so much moaning from the many plant societies, garden clubs, horticultural organizations and the nursery industry in general about the scarcity of young people.

What you need is a parent or grandparent to get things started (Lydia had them), a school that cares about educating kids about nature and the environment, and a kid who's receptive. Alexis is a lucky, lucky girl. She has/is all of those things.

At home in Chestnut Hill, Alexis likes to shadow her dad, who manages the landscape, which is no small thing; the property's just over an acre. Mom and Alexis also enjoy starting flowers and herbs from seed in the small greenhouse Lydia calls the "pleasant surprise" that came with the house.

My story about this mother-daughter duo appears on Friday.

Virginia A. Smith Inquirer Staff Writer
About this blog
Ginny Smith, a Philadelphia native, joined the Inquirer at 1985. After stints as both reporter and editor in the city and suburbs, she’s been happily writing – and learning - about gardening full time since 2006. She’s won two silver medals of achievement from the national Garden Writers Association and in 2011, Bartram’s Garden honored her with its Green Exemplar award for her stories about “the region’s deeply rooted horticultural history, cultural attractions and bountiful gardens.” She plays in her own – mostly - bountiful garden in East Falls. Reach Virginia A. at vsmith@phillynews.com .

Virginia A. Smith Inquirer Staff Writer
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