This month marks my tenth year teaching horticulture to minimum security men at the Boston Pre Release Center (BPRC) in Roslindale. The program has evolved to teaching the Master Gardener Curriculum which I have designed and tweaked over the years. We have met EVERY Wednesday for the last 520 weeks! Hundreds of men have attended the classes, some for a few weeks, most for a few months, some for a year or more. The garden is a teaching garden more than a production garden however over the last couple of years thanks to our ever growing turkey population (34 this year and, NO, we do not foster these guys!) we have become a garden for things that turkeys do NOT like! It seems they don’t like a lot of flowers so we have become a real production garden for flowers. Every week during the growing season we harvest flowers to donate to visitors to the BPRC. It’s so nice for the men to be able to offer a plant or a bunch of flowers to their family and friends who visit on Wednesdays.
These flowers from last year will bloom again and be ready to be given to all kinds of strong women on Mother’s Day this May. The pride is palpable when we bundle up the flowers and display them in the visiting room to be taken home.
Yesterday in class we read SEEDFOLKS by Paul Fleischman about a fictitious community garden with each chapter written in the worlds of a different person from a different culture. The men read with eagerness, reluctance or not at all. Some proudly stood to read, others shared one pair of reading glasses that were missing one arm and were taped together. One man stumbled over the words and was helped by others, another man’s reading was so melodic it entranced me. Another student left and when he returned his neighbor graciously told him what page we were on. One student who is an ever present participant in class declined to read at all. Another student who can barely stay seated in class because of attention issues read the most chapters aloud and was centered and still while reading. After reading he hopped up and left the room as usual only to return a few minutes later to ask to read again. Who knew when I walked into the room yesterday what grace I would find when I asked 6 tough guys to read a young adult book about flowers. I suppose “I” did since that’s why I keep going back every week, every month, every year.