Google and gardens

Sydney Gunnell of Arizona submitted THE EARLY SPRING for this year’s DOODLE 4 GOOGLE contest for K-12 students

National Public Gardens Day is being celebrated May 6, 2011 thanks to The American Public Gardens Association and Rain Bird. It’s designed to raise awareness about public gardens and their role in promoting environmental stewardship. Also to promote plant and water conservation — something we’ve yet to master here in Arizona.

I was struck, while browsing this year’s submissions by K-12 students for the “Doodle 4 Google” contest, by how few of the drawings with plants and flowers feature specimens native to the desert Southwest. Still, I can’t really complain — because it’s taken me more than two decades to develop my own appreciation for Arizona flora and fauna.

I grew up in Colorado, Alaska, Hawaii and California — with nary a Saguaro in sight. But my son, born and raised in Arizona, patiently prompts me in the ways of xeriscaping while doing his best to forgive my forays into plants of other regions that I still keep in my garden to remind me of my childhood.

We’re longtime members of the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, but I was pleased to learn recently that Arizona is home to several other public gardens as well. (My personal garden feels public when neighborhood dogs leave their mark, but it doesn’t technically qualify.)

Those noted on the “National Public Gardens Day” website include not only the DBG, but also two public gardens in Tucson — Boyce Thompson Arboretum (affilated with UA) and Tohono Chul Park. Also The Rose Garden at Mesa Community College and Wallace Desert Gardens in Scottsdale.

We know of other gardens in Arizona as well, including the Japanese Friendship Garden in Phoenix, The Arboretum at Flagstaff and The Arboretum at ASU Community Garden in Tempe. All make for fun adventures with a camera or sketching materials in hand.

We dabbled in gardening as my children, now 17-21, were growing up. It taught them that the best food comes from the earth rather than machines. That growing good things sometimes takes time. That it’s okay to play in the dirt. That living things need tending to on a regular basis.

Encourage your little ones to try their tiny hands at gardening, and keep the care of Arizona’s natural bounty top of mind with garden-related day trips, garden-inspired art projects and explorations of garden-related books and activities. Maybe someday the winner of a “Doodle 4 Google” contest will feature the early morning bloom of a Saguaro cactus.

In the meantime, there’s plenty of amazing “Doodle 4 Google” artwork to explore on the Google website — which features submissions by K-12 students from around the country. You can vote online for your favorite through May 13. And watch for next year’s contest if your child might like to enter his or her own masterpiece.

Judges who selected this year’s 40 finalists include an astronaut, two Olympic gold medalists, several cartoonists and authors of beloved children’s books, a couple of museum professionals, an award-winning actor and others who grace the world with their own unique bits of art.

The winning “Doodle 4 Google” will be displayed on the Google homepage for 24 hours on May 20, 2011 — and the artist will receive prizes that include a $15,000 college scholarship. The 40 regional finalists win a trip to NYC and will have their work exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

For the rest of us, a simple parenting pearl still holds true. Refrigerators make the best exhibit spaces.

— Lynn

Coming up: Arizona school earns Grammy Foundation award 

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