By Max Paschal
“It’s the first thing people see when they walk in the door. It’s like the first word of a play or the first note of a song – if you’re attracted to it, you’re already a good start. ”
Talk about designing the gardens in front of our main entrance when we hear from Schulkil Center staffer Jemel Shockley, it’s easy to share his enthusiasm. A graduate of Philadelphia and most recently Drakece, a graduate in environmental sciences, Jammel brought his passion and creativity to this magnificent space. With the help of the center’s staff and local plant volunteers, he is looking for new solutions.
The garden in front of the guesthouse was once a wild and unblemished tree with golden, sumaak and more behind the fence. A few years ago, our staff came together to fix this important facet – removing any ingredients that would no longer work, but with a simple touch to restore more sensitive houseplants. The result was a mixed field with old bushes. Despite its ecological value, it was clear that a more unique design could better reflect the mission of the center. Enter Jamel.
There were definitely something worthwhile there — wonderful plants and inviting places in the garden — but without structure or order it limits what you can see. If you can open it, you can allow more diversity and allow people to practice each section.
Jamel has been working at the Schulkil Center in collaboration with the Basin Education Union. The Alliance, a coalition of 23 local centers, including the Schlukil Center, operates in the Delaware River Basin. The fellowship program allows young environmentalists to work from different backgrounds to centers, each of which completes a stone paving project as part of their work. Rebuilding and renovating Jamel’s new front yard is the end of his time here.
This is not his first experience with the center. As part of the Drakes Collaboration Program, Jamel spent the summer of 2018 learning the many skills and perspectives he is currently using to create a place in the Department of Lands and Resources.
Growing up in a family of artists with a knack for their commitment to community service, Jamel came up with a unique perspective on environmental work. In this garden, it seeks to blur the lines between beauty, ecology and physical access to visitors. Although he is known for his silence and meditation, his interest quickly fades when he discusses this project.
“I want this to be the way people interact. Being in a place where you can inspect the plants closely – what it is, or even if you don’t know anything about it – can be very helpful in understanding them. When you can be there next to plants, you will see their shape and color and how they interact with each other.
One of the benefits of this project to Jamel is the learning process. Although he had previously worked as a gardener and took a plant lesson at Draxley, this was a great opportunity for him to work directly in the field and design in a new way with new plants. Fortunately, he received help from one of the region’s best-known local horticulturists. Jamel is learning from the best, and he is also out of work.
“I began to understand plants in a new way. When I went to my house and saw things in my neighborhood, I said, ‘Oh, I know this! That’s Virginia’s float, that Confucian. Working with these gardeners is truly a precious gift. ”
Jamel has been given a difficult task, but he is giving a “first note” that makes the center proud of his diligence, thinking and creativity. There is a lot of excitement among those who pass by our door on the final walk, which includes the beauty, vision and purpose of the Shukukil Center.
We look forward to seeing you at Gmail next spring.
Max Paschal is the land management coordinator at the Shukukil Environmental Center in Upper Rockero. Mike Wilbacher will return next week.