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Lathrop School sprouts citrus, butterfly gardens
A carpenter bee gathers nectar from the remaining flowers of the Allen Chickering sage in Lathrop Schools Butterfly Garden. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

You’d be hard-pressed to find a butterfly in the garden right now. But in no time, with summer break over and school back in full swing, the cultivated area behind the kindergarten playground at Lathrop Elementary School will not be a Butterfly Garden in name only.

Principal David Silveira said the school just received a $100 grant through the California Native Plant Society. He promised there will be more butterfly plants added to the sparse leafy menagerie when they start planting “next month.”

Silveira took an oral inventory of the hardy plants in the garden as he walked around the area in between two classroom buildings a few days before the start of the school year on Thursday: yarrow, Allen Chickering sage, buckwheat, lion’s paw, ceanothus, California redbud. There were a few others whose names he could not put a finger on.

“I need to have someone com in and name them,” he commented.

A black carpenter bee was the only winged creature that was spotted buzzing around the thick mound of sage in the middle of the garden. There was no shortage of butterfly of the inanimate kind, however. Paintings of colorful butterflies brightened up the side of the buildings on either side of the garden, up the trunk of the mature evergreen tree, and around the sides of the storage shed. Many of the paintings were the handiwork of the school children, explained Silveira. The shed itself was painted by the parents.

These painting project, as well as the gardens – the school also has a citrus garden – is one way for the students to “show ownership of the school,” the principal said.

The citrus garden is situated in an old playground that was no longer in use. After the area was cleaned up, teacher Jim Carr volunteered to install the irrigation pies to water the trees which include different varieties of oranges. Home Depot helped by donating the trees. Community volunteers that included members of the Lathrop Rotary such as Tosh Ishahara and Ann Waller also pitched in by pruning the young trees.

The Rotarians also did the weeding before the end of the school year, “but everything came back,” Silveira said.

So another teacher, Brian Jex, who teaches first grade, tackled that task by himself during the summer.

“He came and weeded the whole thing. That was his summer job,” Silveira said of the teacher’s volunteer summer project.

When the oranges were ready for picking last year, the first-grade class did the harvesting. Then they delivered the fruits to the seniors at the Lathrop Senior Center.

That community sharing is “the whole goal” of the citrus garden, pointed out Silveira.