How the Mount Royal School Garden came into being

The idea for the garden grew out of fear that the Chesapeake Bay Trust would decline the Watershed Assistance Grant request for $75,000, from the school Parent Teacher Organization, for a major de-paving and greening of the Mount Royal Elementary/Middle School yard on McMechen Street.

At stake was the momentum that began building in the summer of 2017 with stakeholder formation meetings—community members and organizations, institutions and other non-profits, parents, teachers, and the school principal—for schoolyard changes.

The seeds of a new greening idea (no “depave”) arose from two visits over three weeks’ time to the beautiful Ladew Topiary Gardens and its well-regarded Butterfly House in Monkton.

A special relationship developed between Ladew and the school that would include in-classroom instruction and garden planting design by Ladew staff, and second and third-grade student visits to Ladew. It was all paid for by grant funds obtained by Ladew.

The next step that summer was for Kimberly Canale, Mt. Royal PTO President at the time, to request pro bono design help from talented landscape architect JoAnn Trach Tongson of Mahan Rykiel. JoAnn created the design for the 2,160 square foot site then occupied by two commercial dumpsters.

Then a MICA professor, who had led an architectural ceramics tour of Bolton Hill in the summer of 2016, agreed that he and two assistants would guide a dozen Mount Royal second-graders in designing and kiln-firing ceramic stepping stones for the garden.

In April 2018, the Chesapeake Bay Trust awarded the project $5,000. It turned out that was about half of what was needed, so four other funding sources were identified, including the Bolton Hill Garden Club. Construction began in May 2018, where the handiwork of school parents, the Memorial Episcopal Creation Care Co-lead, and a representative from Hamilton Elementary/Middle School who had built its two gardens, was on full display.

Lee Tawney