Randalls Island Park Alliance

The Caterpillar’s Arrival

In Ask a Gardener, Learning Garden, New Ideas and Expansions on September 6, 2012 at 11:26 am

By Dianne Crary

We have a new caterpillar in The Learning Garden.  It doesn’t move and greets visitors at the entrance to the garden.

The caterpillar is painted on boards attached to our milk crate garden.  Earlier this year I blogged about the field trip that Randall’s Island gardeners took to River Park Farm in Manhattan to see a garden made out of milk crates (see Zach’s Lil-Acres).  We decided to try out this system in our Learning Garden (see Create a Garden with Milk Crates), but the black crates were not very cheery and The Learning Garden is where many New York City children are introduced to gardening and its benefits.

We came up with the idea to form  an undulating line of milk crates and to cover the crates with boards to look like the parts of a caterpillar.  Aaron Moritz, a fellow gardener, cut large plywood sheets to match the measurements of the three different sizes of crates and then painted them with a primer/base coat of gray.  Aaron also drilled holes at the right location so the boards could be attached to the crates.  Now, they were ready to be painted as a caterpillar.
When taking a class at the New York Botanical Garden, I noticed a person behind me drawing an adorable bunny rabbit.  Jackpot!  I immediately asked if she could draw a caterpillar for our garden.  She was intrigued and readily said that she would love to help out.  That was how Eunjoo Paek joined our caterpillar team.  Later I found out that she had been a children’s illustrator for McGraw Hill.

One Sunday afternoon Eunjoo and I got together to do the painting.  We rummaged through various cans of paint left over from other jobs and picked out a few colors.  With paint, brushes and boards in hand, we headed out to The Learning Garden to paint in the shade of a cherry tree.

Eunjoo outlined the face of the caterpillar while I started on the simpler task of painting ovals for the body segments.  Various children who were picnicking with their families came over to see what we were doing.  Quickly their shyness disappeared and they asked if they could paint too.  So Eunjoo and Idrew ovals on the boards for them to fill in.  In no time we had a cue of children all wanting to paint.   The ovals were divided in half and then into smaller sections to accommodate everyone.
The boards had to dry sufficiently for additional colors to be added to the face and for the legs to be painted.  Eventually, it was all done and the children were proud of their work, as they guarded the drying boards lying on the grass.

In the weeks following, the boards were covered with three layers of varnish to help them withstand the elements and then mounted on the crates.  The crates are now cherry, amusing and child-friendly.  This caterpillar is also garden friendly, since it does not eat any of our plants!

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  1. […] painting over at Randall’s Island for their Learning Garden. They posted about it on their blog! Go check it out! Share this:ShareRedditTwitterStumbleUponFacebookPrintEmailLike this:LikeBe the […]

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