Down the garden path
Seed saving, planting and preparing for a day at the local growers’ market are part of the routine for two young boys growing up on a small property overlooking Lake Warden, near Esperance.
It is obvious that there is a horticultural presence on the secluded property as soon as one turns off the beaten path.
The gravel road winds among majestic trees and ends in front of a house flanked by a vegetable garden to one side and a shade house to the other.
Prayer flags waft in the breeze above a vegetable patch, which is a healthy vibrant green, yellow and red patchwork of edible plants.
A wooden cubby is an indicator that there are children present.
Bailer, 7, and Monty Paris, 4, may be viewed as social entrepreneurs — they have established an enterprise with the aim of solving social problems or effecting social change. In this case, they are working hard to make the planet a greener place.
On most Esperance Growers Market days, they can be found at their stall with a range of plants, seeds and crafts that they have carefully gathered or made.
But there is more to their business, B and M’s Secret Garden, than meets the eye, and their earnest industry is not totally altruistic — it all started with farm machinery, of sorts.
The boys were destined to be gardeners with parents, Dan Paris and Tanya Jenkyn, both passionate about growing things.
Mr Paris is a photographer with a love of outdoor spaces, while Ms Jenkyn is a horticulturalist. Both have a set of skills that combine to help them in their shared goal of bringing up happy and healthy children.
“Both Dan and I come from a long line of gardeners, growing things is woven into the fabric of our lives through our genetic heritage alone. Both boys have been involved in our garden from days after their birth — they learned to walk navigating those paths.
Their immune systems are born from that soil. Their first solid foods were grown there,” Ms Jenkyn said.
“The art of gardening lends itself to early childhood education like nothing else.
Science in the cycle of life, mathematics in planting, spacing and building, oral literacy in the myriad of conversations surrounding the processes of potting, growth and maintenance, manual dexterity, using knives and tools, being gentle with babies and stern with weeds, observing the changes as seasons pass. Successes and failures, trials and tribulations.”
Ms Jenkyn said the idea of selling things at market came about when the boys both developed an obsession with farm machinery, specifically of the small toy variety.
“They’d used up their birthday money, wiped out their piggy banks and they wanted more.
We had to break it to them that in order to buy things you need money, in order to acquire money, you had to earn it and we were not willing or able to bankroll their tractor addiction,” Ms Jenkyn said.
The boys were encouraged to view the garden and their creativity as more than just enjoyable aspects of their lives. They were encouraged to spread their wings in a commercial and financial sense.
“We saw the opportunity to use this venture to extend their education, and supplement the household income too if this hobby worked out. Discussions grew to include the ins and outs of business planning, budgeting and financial management.
They were horrified to learn that there would be business expenses and that it would need to come from the Secret Garden Earnings Fund,” Ms Jenkyn said.
“Also, their ability to draw on the fund would be in proportion to their actual participation.
“The boys are quite proficient at seed saving and planting, seedling planting, collecting herbs to dry, watering, filling seed packets, harvesting vegetables, prepping kokedama materials, sticks and succulent cuttings, sign writing, and label placement.
“We can often get a good production line going with an age appropriate job for each family member. We brainstorm ideas about things we could sell and they bring plenty to the table there.”
The boys are still young, so their enthusiasm waxes and wanes somewhat.
“But we’ve committed to the business, so a certain amount of ‘adulting’ is required to keep it driving forward — that’s my role and it’s a role I cherish. Driving this venture forward has re-ignited my love of propagation and given me a chance to explore my love of crafting,” Ms Jenkyn said.
The B and M’s Secret Garden range includes saved seed packets, seedlings and rooted cuttings of both edibles and other plants from the family’s collection.
“We sell any vegetables and fruit from our block that is surplus to our needs, as well as produce from any neighbours and friends who grow more than they use but don’t do markets themselves,” Ms Jenkyn said.
“We make plant markers from sticks using a burning tool and upcycle all manner of wooden things we find using pyrography. We collect and dry both culinary and medicinal herbs. We made glitter globes for Christmas using old toys and jars.
“We make kokedamas in various sizes and are experimenting with a range of lovely exotic indoor air cleaning plants.
“We make itty bitty mini gardens with succulents, shells, corks and magnets.
The range changes with every market depending where the creative wind blew us the previous weeks, what is in season and what our friends and family have for us to sell on their behalf. For example, one of our neighbours has an obsession with growing things, so depending on the time of year we might sell his cymbidium orchids, epiphyllums, clivias, garlic or sweetcorn.”
Horticulture has not only provided an income stream for two young boys with a desire to build their collection of model machinery, it has served to establish a relationship between them and the community they live in, their customers at the markets and their plant-loving neighbour.
It has also provided the family with an on-property focus that is all engrossing and bond building.
The benefits of involving children in gardening are well documented, with research showing that side effects of time in the patch include a life-long interest in gardening, an increase in self-understanding and the ability to work in groups and a tendency to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables than their non-gardening counterparts. None of those outcomes are particular surprising when you see children like the Paris boys working on their projects.
On this small property in the midst of a vast farming landscape, these two young boys are gaining skills that will benefit them in the future, while meeting that stated goal of their parents — to have children who are both happy and healthy.
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