$8,000 donation helps build new gazebo at Wildcat Garden

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From left, Oakley Erickson, Shari Johnson, registered nurse Lori George of Dermatology Associates, and Fiona Jensen-Hitch of Food Corps at the new Wildcat Garden gazebo.

The Wildcat Garden at the Columbia Falls Junior High has a new gazebo thanks to the American Dermatology Association.

The garden was a awarded an $8,000 grant to build the structure, which will give students and community members a place to get out of the sun and the rain, depending on the meteorological circumstances.

Pat Rose Construction built the gazebo and donated some benches, said teacher and counselor Shari Johnson. The garden started about seven years ago and today has an experimental orchard, numerous raised beds, a native plant section and even a small stand of wheat, which will be ground up to make flour later this year, Johnson said.

The orchard, in cooperation with Montana State University Extension, features 21 apple trees, nine plum trees and 19 pear trees. The idea is to determine which varieties perform best in the Flathead’s climate.

Johnson says Frostbite apples so far are some of the best, though several trees are literally sagging with fruit after an almost perfect summer, with timely rains and plenty of sun.

The garden has several educational programs, from students learning about how to grow and cook produce through the Food Corps program, to math lessons studying seed production in sunflowers.

The gazebo will allow students and teachers a place from the elements.

“We’re grateful to have it,” Johnson said.

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