A1.7-acre park along the banks of the Reedy River where Broad Street meets River Street is a magical place for children. There, in the History Garden, they can see and touch a cotton plant and understand a bit about how its fruit becomes a T-shirt.
In the Five Senses Garden, they can explore the scent, color and feel of growing things. Or they can take a trek through the Alphabet Garden, naming familiar plants along the way.
It's all a part of the Children's Garden at Linky Stone Park, named in honor of the late Allene Lawton Wyman “Linky” Stone, who with her husband, Eugene Earle Stone III, helped found Stone Manufacturing.
Several local groups worked to build the garden, including Leadership Greenville Class 30. Today, it's maintained by the City of Greenville and volunteers of the Greenville Master Gardeners Association.
When the Children's Garden became a project of the Greater Greenville Master Gardener Association, member Deborah Schneider signed on. Schneider loved the idea of introducing children to nature and to the natural world of gardening.
“It is a perfect match,” she says.
The garden is divided into several areas, each with a different theme. There's a Storybook Garden, Fairy Tale Forest, Canna Cave, the Science Gardens and a Rainbow Garden, among others.
Paved walkways flow throughout the garden under large trees and alongside the Reedy River. The park is always open, and there is free parking across the street.
Schneider says she had two mentors in gardening -- Phoebe Blackston, a Master Gardener who shared her passion for gardening, and Mac Sieber, a friend of her mother's who had endless creativity in the garden.
What Schneider learned from these positive women developed into her three-part garden philosophy. One part is passion: you must find what you love and follow your heart there.
The second part is knowledge, something every gardener needs, especially in South Carolina, Schneider says. Gardening is tricky here, and knowledge is crucial.
The third part of Schneider's philosophy is that you must learn to work with Mother Nature, because she is probably going to win.
“You have to keep the three parts in balance. That's the way I approach it,” Schneider says.
“The people who put the Children's Garden together had a mission, and that was to teach children. Children today have no idea where their clothing comes from, where their green beans come from,” Schneider says.
“It is so much fun to go up to children in the garden and ask 'Do you know where your T-shirt came from?' then show them the cotton growing in the History Garden and tell them that this is where it came from. I love to explain to children the significance of cotton growing in South Carolina.”
Schneider says she knew nothing about the cotton plant until she began volunteering in the Children's Garden. “... I learned about growing it here in the History Garden.”
She loves the history, loves the fact that “the planners took the original site of Stone Manufacturing and installed a wonderful, interactive facility for children. Kids can play music in the hearing part of the Five Senses Garden or ride the Three Bears in the Storybook Garden. They can weave the loom in the History Garden, or see how cotton is growing. Hopefully, these children can make the historical connections to the city of Greenville.”
She has high praise for the city of Greenville and its role in the garden.
“The city of Greenville does a fantastic job of maintaining this garden. It has been a nice partnership. The Master Gardeners do the deadheading, change out the annuals; do the tweaking, while the city does the bulk of the work.”
The garden fits well with the Greater Greenville Master Gardener Association's emphasis on education.
“What better place to do that than here, and with children,” she says. “Youth groups, elementary schools, middle schools all come here. Activities with children include tours, scavenger hunts and field trips.”
A free tour is open to the public at 10 a.m. every fourth Saturday, April through October. No reservation is needed, and the 30-minute tour proceeds rain or shine.
“To me, the Master Gardener Association is such an important part of making a connection in the community through gardening,” Schneider says. “What better way to educate the public than through our organization, which trains you to do just that. I take that challenge very seriously.”
Jessica R. Miller