Secret Gardeners


The Secret Garden was my favorite book growing up. My title today is a nod to that fictional secret garden. But instead of a story of two damaged, lonely children finding hope in emerging bulbs behind tall forbidden walls, this is a small story about secret garden-ers, working in the open but largely unnoticed, at my elementary school.

Look at the first picture above. A beautiful windowsill of healthy orchids.
Look at the second. They are actually in a messy storage room, tucked away on the top floor of the school.
I asked around to find out who was the secret gardener.

Our school parents are fairly well-off, and a common teacher gift here is an orchid plant. They are available at the grocery store across the street, so they are a lovely tasteful gift that can also be easy and last-minute.

And so many classrooms have a blooming orchid on the teacher’s desk or in a windowsill- for awhile. Until the blooms fall off, and the plant is a few tough leaves and a drying stalk reaching up to nowhere. Then, in the trash they go. Or, if they stay around watered and tolerated, often they are left behind during the summer pack-up and exodus.

But Mr. Lindsey and Sra. Cruz de la Rosa save them. Our maintenance workers. They put them in just the right sun. Mr. Lindsey uses this overflowing third floor storage room and Sra. Cruz de la Rosa tucks hers behind the photocopier on the second floor. They each water them and care for them. And the forgotten orchids come back to bloom, over and over.

Mr. Lindsey just maintains his garden in private, without a word. Sra. Cruz de la Rosa quietly distributes hers when in bloom. She places them in the Principal’s office and in the windows behind the administrators desks, brightening the front office. When the blooms are done, back upstairs they go until they are fabulous again.

I could end with a moral. It might be about nurturing, or life, or money. Or status, values or altruism. But I won’t, because what I really feel about the orchids is a simple happiness knowing they are there. And gratitude to the beautiful gardeners.

8 thoughts on “Secret Gardeners

  1. I love this!!!!! A beautiful plant can bring the classroom so much more color and life. It is so cool that the custodians keep the plants alive and move them around the building. Even better that they do it quietly. It sounds like a special place.:)

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  2. You found gems hidden in the most unlikely of places and have shared them with us. I have never had much luck with orchids and admire these gardeners and their special knack.
    And though I know the story isn’t meant to be about you, it shows how you are attuned to finding these things. Favorite line: “this is a small story about secret garden-ers, working in the open but largely unnoticed”.

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  3. Oh my goodness! Those are beautiful. I take home all the thrown away flowers I see, but I’m never able to bring them back to life like this. I’m a bit jealous.

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  4. I love your story about secret gardeners! Your story shows the kind, nurturing side of your cleaning staff. so glad you added the photos. I especially appreciated your story because I’m the teacher who would not be able to keep the orchid alive and it makes me happy to think that at your school, someone would save the plant!

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  5. I like the juxtaposition of elegance and clutter, preservation and waste, staff and teachers. You capture the situation well without judging it, and that is delightful.

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