St. Petersburg Times
Special report
Video report
  • For their own good
    Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
  • More video reports
Multimedia report
Print Email this storyEmail story Comment Email editor
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
Your name Your email
Friend's name Friend's email
Your message


Family shares a growth enterprise

By Elizabeth Bettendorf
Published March 23, 2007


When Louisiana native Laura Gauthier wanted to share her love of gardening with her children, she knew she had to start somewhere.

Now, all three kids - 9-year-old triplets Mary Olive, Max and Mark - each have their own garden plots and are fulfilling a vision.

"Mary Olive wanted a statue and a pond," Gauthier explains, "and Max and Mark wanted to grow fruits and vegetables."

And that's exactly what they've created: Mary Olive nestled her statue and a tiny pond on a 9-foot by 12-foot plot flanked by disease-resistant roses, calla lilies, miniature roses and petunias.

"She likes pink. She wanted everything pink!" Gauthier said.

The boys grow beefsteak tomatoes, strawberries, jalapeno peppers, spearmint and pineapple. Instead of delicate statues or fountains, they opted for signs that declare: "Grow!"

But Gauthier started with the basics, giving the children gardening books and taking them on excursions to garden stores.

"You have to start simply; otherwise, it can be overwhelming, especially for very young children," said Gauthier, who, along with her husband, got the triplets "growing a few tomatoes" at age 5.

She also bought the triplets miniature gardening tools, knee pads and plastic garden clogs.

It worked.

"They all really seem to enjoy gardening," she says.

Now the triplets' gardens grow on the family's double lot in South Tampa, sweet, simple plots amid the Lousiana-style gardens and outdoor kitchen where the grownups hang out. Well, usually.

"We had a crawfish boil this weekend with 30 kids who all ran through flower beds," she said.

The triplets' gardens - as well as the grownups' gardens - will be featured on this year's Earthly Paradise Garden Tour. The event will be held from noon to 5 p.m. April 1 and includes five gardens and a musical tea party.

Visitors will get to peek into the spacious porches that incorporate heirloom family furniture with sweeping views of the garden. It's where the Gauthiers sit and enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Her advice for getting kids interested in gardening is simple:

-Start getting them interested as soon as they're a little independent - around age 5, she says. "Let them tell you what they want. Otherwise, it turns into a project that Mommy does."

-Teach them to make lists of questions they will need to answer about the plants they want to grow, she advises.

-Give your child a dedicated plot but make sure it's a place you're willing to give up. If you like to look at roses and they want vegetables, remember that vegetables aren't always pretty to look at, but the rewards are incredible.

-Take them to garden stores that aren't overwhelming and where it's easy to work with small children.

-Get them gardening books, their own tools and look with them at children's gardening sites on the Internet." Some good sites include, and shtml.

-Have them keep a journal, she advises. "Make it a real simple journal. What I fed my plant and what happened to it."

-Enjoy the process. "My little boys were recently asking me if we could give the whole yard over to growing fruits and vegetables, and I said, 'Show me how well you keep up with this and we'll see," Gauthier says with a smile.

"Who knows? They're calling themselves farmers now. Not gardeners."

[Last modified March 22, 2007, 10:37:10]

Share your thoughts on this story

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Subscribe to the Times
Click here for daily delivery
of the St. Petersburg Times.

Email Newsletters