For at least 10 years, students at Irvington High School tried- and failed- to create a garden outside the 200-wing of campus. Kelly Kong was determined to be the first to succeed.
"That area of campus really bothered me," explains Kelly, "It was hard-packed dirt and ice plant that trapped trash. It didn't look good, and I knew we could do better."
Not everyone was convinced, however. Multiple campus beautification efforts had attempted to plant a wider variety of flowers, but all died in the rocky/sandy dirt. None were able to survive a summer without regular watering. The grounds supervisor told Kelly that the invincible and invasive ice plant was the best solution for the area.
"To convince him that I was serious, I promised to come back and re-plant the ice plant if our efforts failed," says Kelly. As planning for the garden was underway, the Irvington community was shaken by the death of a student. Quickly, the idea of establishing a Memorial Garden sprang to life- as did the importance of succeeding.
Working with the school garden club, Kelly and her peers reached out to Curtis Tom, a local master gardener and community volunteer. Tom helped the students develop a landscape plan for low-water, Bay-Friendly, plant selections and advised the students to install rock barriers to protect newly planted seedlings from getting trampled.
"It was a bit of a shock to learn that our garden would cost over $1,000!" exclaimed Kelly. "I never knew that rocks could be so expensive." Proceeds from on-campus recycling efforts helped pay for most of the materials and plants.
30 garden club members and volunteers from Fremont's other high schools removed the ice plant, tilled soil and planted the garden in the spring of 2011. Plants were grouped according to water needs, with "thirstier" plants located strategically near rainwater downspouts.
Student volunteers watered and trimmed the garden over the summer to ensure that the plants were well established, resulting in a beautiful, peaceful garden just outside the classroom windows on the west edge of campus.
"The staff keep asking me, 'Who made such a beautiful garden? That is quite a sight!'" reports Clint Johns, a faculty advisor to many student initiated green projects on campus. "I told them it was all student work- they did an excellent job!"
What does Kelly think about the garden now? "One of my favorite things about the new garden is that it attracts humming birds. They show up about the same time every day. Just this week I witnessed the most epic battle- two humming birds used their beaks like swords and fought over a flower."