NEW BRITAIN – “We have to make sure they’re spread apart,” one student told Mayor Erin Stewart of the flowers being planted one recent morning.
“Is this deep enough?” Stewart asked, while digging a planting hole for the flower she was holding.
“Yeah,” several students responded, sounding excited.
The planting lesson came last week at Walnut Hill Park when several students and teachers from Lincoln Elementary School met with state Rep. William Petit Jr. and his Petit Family Foundation, the mayor and Zeena Tawfik of the city’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department. The group was planting four o’clock flowers in a triangle garden at the end of Lexington Street, before the park begins, in honor of Petit’s late daughter, Michaela, as part of Michaela’s Garden Project.
Michaela Petit was killed along with her sister, Hayley, and mother, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, during a Cheshire home invasion in 2007.
Four o’clocks in particular, of the many plants that Michaela and her father would maintain over the years, were dear to Michaela, according to the foundation’s website, petitfamilyfoundation.org.
“New Britain’s been a great partner, and the Public Works Department. Prepping the bed, making sure it’s watered,” said Petit. “They (the students) learn. It’s community service and people get to enjoy it.”
The group has been planting in the park for about four years, Tawfik said. The flowers were grown from seedlings prepared by NB Roots, which also holds gardening programs at several schools in the city. The students from Lincoln Elementary School were part of the “Green Team,” which is focused on planting, recycling and other environmental efforts.
Four o’clocks can be planted anytime after Memorial Day and take about six weeks to bloom before lasting until the first frost, Petit said. He was helping give instruction to the students planting, such as spacing the flowers out so they can “breathe in the ground.”
“It just turned into a jungle,” Petit said of the effort last year, during which students excitedly covered the entire bed with the flowers.
“Thank you, guys, for doing this,” Stewart said after the planting. “It means a lot to Representative Petit.”
Following the planting session, the students, who were helping on their last day of the school year, and Stewart discussed summer plans, which included a trip to Florida for one student.
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.