Mary Margaret’s Garden

  • Mission:
  • To provide every student the opportunity to foster an attitude of
  • stewardship and discovery of living things through the use of
  • our senses, observations, and experimentation.



Mary Margarets Story

The garden is dedicated to the memory of Mary Margaret Pilcher, whose life reminds us of the beauty of butterflies, flowers and rainbows. In 9th grade, she won the Jim Armour Christian Leadership Award. She was the sweetest, kindest soul who always greeted people with a joyful smile. Mary Margaret, a Fayette Academy senior cheerleader, tragically lost her life in a car accident on the way home from a Fayette Academy basketball game in Jackson, Tennessee, on Valentine’s Day, 2004. We miss her and will never forget her loving spirit.

This garden was designed by students from Fayette Academy in grades 5-10 under the leadership of science teachers Tommy Conn and Donna Burrus. Students conducted a school yard ecology study and were encouraged to reach for the stars when they chose how they would like to study and learn about the natural world. Students identified an outdoor classroom and developed a wish list of what would be included. Even though the Pizza Hut and Outdoor Movie Theatre did not make it into the classroom, the water ecosystem, beneficial insect garden, fire pit and raised beds became a reality. Fayette Academy students also participated in the actual construction from measuring the sites, planting the plants, building the walls of the Flames of Knowledge pit, to placing stones throughout. The grand entryway was designed by freshman Jake Dowdy, and it includes an ornamental iron gate.  It features a walkway of Bricks for Better Learning, which highlights supporters of our garden project. After the garden was completed and dedicated in 2005, students requested the establishment of an Ecology Club so future Fayette Academy students could help maintain and care for the garden, ensuring its sustainability.

In celebration of Mary Margarets Gardens tenth anniversary, the Ecology Club, sponsored by Donna Burrus, Melissa Norwood, and Terri Reeves, have declared the 2015-2016 school year, the Year of the Garden. Thanks to these students’ hard work and fundraising efforts, permanent signs describing the garden spaces are now a part of this wonderful learning ecosystem. Enjoy your journey. 

Scott’s Miracle Grow Grant


Mystic Sands

Shhh, be very quiet, and you may observe one of the many animals that live here. Mystic Sands is home to our friendly rat snake, Sune-Ku Hebi, which is the Japanese phrase for snake. Hebi keeps our field mouse population under control. In the winter, deer like to bed in the miniature cane for warmth. On the fence you can observe our two bluebird houses that are home to the bluebirds that return every spring to raise their babies. Students participate in Project Noah and take photos of all wildlife in the garden and upload them to the website for identification.

This Japanese garden was designed by freshman Shane Beckham, and it contains a large focal piece of sandstone donated by brothers Harry and Calvin Ozier. It was discovered in Moscow, TN, and it represents mountains in this sand and stone garden, while the sand can be raked into a pattern that suggests water. Also in Mystic Sands you will find dwarf bamboo, Japanese maple, Yoshino Cherry and dwarf wisteria.

The Yoshino Cherry tree was donated by the Somerville Arts and Garden Club because it was Mary Margaret’s mother’s favorite tree. It is a distinct species from Japan. This Japanese flowering cherry is the darling of the flowering tree world and the star of such renowned events as the National and International Cherry Blossom Festivals, according to the Arbor Day Foundation.

It is also home to the beautiful pink roses with their amazing aroma that fills the air every spring and fall.  Pink was Mary Margaret’s favorite color, and her fellow cheerleaders, sponsored by Charlotte Karcher and Debbie German, provided these wonderful additions to the garden.

The white sand ties this garden to the Wings of Wonder garden, since it is a source of needed mineral salts for butterflies. The burgundy bayberry bush is a thorn bush that provides protection for birds and insects. The ornamental grasses have seeded themselves and are beginning to provide the screens recommended in Japanese gardens that hide the pathway and draw you into the area.

Come through the arbor and witness the wildlife that abound.


Serenity Falls

Serenity Falls was designed by freshman Corey Holley, and is a native water ecosystem, complete with fish, algae, frogs, dragon flies, and tadpoles. Arkansas field stones line the pool’s edge, and the fish in the pond are native to this area and include bream and catfish. This garden features a waterfall and stream that flows into the pond, providing water circulation and ensuring oxygen for the fish.

Many people see the algae and say, “yuck,” but it is a very important part of our native water ecosystem. Algae produce oxygen for our fish to survive and fix nitrogen from the atmosphere so that it is available for other organisms. Algae also purify the water by absorbing heavy metals and nutrients, and they are the bottom of the food chain, so they provide food for other organisms in Serenity Falls. This garden provides water full of life for microscopic studies of algae, macro invertebrates, protozoa and much more. If you look closely and are still and quiet, you can observe the fish. They will come to the top of the water when they feel safe. If you are loud, noisy and move a lot, the fish and frogs will hide among the rocks because they think you are a predator, and they are afraid.

The Gazebo was donated by Mary Margaret’s parents and provides students protection from the sun and a place to gather.

You probably heard the frogs yelp and jump into the water as you approached. So sit quietly and you may see the frogs eyes peek from the water. Hush is the word, and maybe they will talk to you again!

Have your garden certified by the NWF.


Flames of Knowledge

A challenge was placed before the students of Fayette Academy: design an outdoor area with no tables or chairs that would seat a full class. The result? Our fire pit, with the wall which will seat a full class, designed by 6th grader Jake Burnett. This amazing idea came to life by adding a French drain to control the water. It includes a fire pit for S’mores and roasting hot dogs. Our young minds are full of amazing engineering ideas and skills which are demonstrated by the walls that were built by freshman girl engineers.

You will notice in the Flames of Knowledge area the Prophet statue, watching over the classes. The prophet holds the Bible, and reminds us of the book of Genesis, chapter 2, verse 15: And the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden to work it and keep it.

Also found in the Flames of Knowledge area is a concrete platform where we may set up telescopes for student viewing of the Universe. It also serves as a place to grill and conduct the new Breakfast in the Garden established in 2015 by the Ecology Club.


Wings of Wonder

The Wings of Wonder garden was designed by 6th grader Kade Shughart, and is home to numerous beneficial insects. It contains two butterfly houses to provide safe resting places for butterflies. Students fill the butterfly houses with sticks and leaves, providing cozy places to rest. You may think this garden needs to be weeded, but leaving natural areas in this garden is very important and native grasses and other plants serve insects well. Remember the definition of a weed: any plant that is growing where you do not want it to grow. They are not weeds here.

It is also important to provide stumps and logs for food and other forms of shelter. Butterflies need access to mineral salts, which we provide by mixing mineral salts in with the white sands in the Mystic Sands garden area nearby. Running water in the beautiful fountain, with our garden angel who watches over these important insects, is a very important addition to this type of garden. Insects get thirsty, too. Our students are participating in the Monarch Watch Program.

It is very important to use native plants here that provide nectar and pollen for the insects. Notice the black-eyed Susan’s, coneflowers and butterfly bush to name a few. Thanks to these beneficial insects, the Action Garden and flowering plants, shrubs, and trees are pollinated, so we can all enjoy the fruits, vegetables and beautiful flowers throughout Mary Margarets Garden.

So the next time you see a bee, wasp, butterfly, moth or other pollinating insect, say “thanks,” because without them, we would not have the wonderful fruits and vegetables we all enjoy.

A special thank you goes to all the insects!


Action Garden

These nine raised beds are available to every class at Fayette Academy for plant studies. Students conduct soil investigations, plan their plots, plant seeds, and measure the plants’ growth. The garden bulletin board was designed and built by Fayette Academy juniors Cody Cunningham and Alex Wilson. Be sure to read the outdoor bulletin board regularly for upcoming garden events and information.

How does the garden grow? Just like people, plants need water, food, and air to grow. Plants get what they need through their leaves, stem and roots. Water and nutrients are absorbed from the soil through a plant’s roots. Carbon dioxide (CO2), one of the gases in the air, is taken up through microscopic openings in the leaves called stomata. Using energy from the sun, plants transform the water, nutrients and carbon dioxide into food. This process is called photosynthesis.

Through photosynthesis, plants produce oxygen, an element that people need to live. When we breath, we exhale carbon dioxide, the gas plants need to survive. This is one way that plants and animals depend on each other for life.

The three most important nutrients that plants need to grow are nitrogen (N), which makes a plant green and helps it grow, phosphorus (P), which builds strong roots, and potassium (K), which helps in overall strength and disease resistance. All of these are found in compost – the perfect fertilizer for the garden. Our compost bin is found in the back left corner, and was donated by science teacher Ruth Ann Moore. Feel free to add your vegetable, fruit, peelings and bread scraps to the compost bin, then give it a turn. Unlike chemical fertilizers, compost is long-lasting. It builds the soil and is easily made in your own backyard. Just dig a hole or start a pile of compost and cover it with soil or straw to reduce insects and smell. Have fun and start your own compost.


Garden Awards:

  • National Gardening Association’s Youth Garden Award
  • Certified by the National Wildlife Federation
  • Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Award
  • Honorable Mention Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Success Story
  • Walmart Everyday is Earth Day National Winner

National and Regional Awards:

  • 2007 TN State Department of Environment and Conservation Partner Level Success Story
  • 2007 Fayette County Education Foundation Grant
  • 2006 National Gardening Association Youth Garden Grant
  • 2006 Fayette County Farm Bureau Women Book Grant
  • 2006 Fayette County Education Foundation Grant
  • 2006 Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Green School Award (Statewide Runner-up)
  • 2006 Mail-order Gardening Association’s Kids Growing with Dutch Bulb Grant
  • 2004 Tennessee Farm Bureau Grant
  • Tennessee Foundation for Ag in the Classroom Grant
  • 2004 Chickasaw Shiloh Resource Conservation and Development Council Grant


  • The Monarch Society
  • Plant a Row for the Hungry Program with the Garden Writer’s Association
  • National Points of Light Foundation’s Presidential Service Award
  • National Wildlife Federation
  • North American Pollinator Protection Campaign
  • National Fish and Wildlife Association
  • National Gardening Association

Certificates of Excellence:

  • Rodale Institute for Organic Gardening
  • Tennessee Pollution Prevention Plan through the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TP3)
  • Sea World/Bush Gardens/Fuji Film Environmental Awards
  • National Gardening Association


  • American Horticulture Society
  • TN Department of Environment and Conservation
  • National and Global Youth Service Day
  • National Earth Day
  • Backyard Wildlife Habitat
  • Tennessee Solid Waste Environmental Program
  • Fayette County Soil Conservation
  • National Science Teacher’s Association
  • Tennessee Environmental Education Association
  • Youth Service America
  • Fayette Care
  • Environmental Smart
  • Junior Master Gardener
  • Wild Birds Unlimited
  • USA Freedom Corps
  • Somerville Garden and Arts Club
  • Lowe’s
  • Home Depot
  • Somerville Electric
  • Lanmark Plumbing
  • Somerville Farm Supply
  • Fayette Co-op
  • Morris Lumber
  • Stenglar Concrete Stamping
  • Oakland Concrete
  • John Deere Landscape
  • Dan West Garden Center
  • Fowler Paving
  • Wilson Lime
  • Dello’s Nursery
  • Ames Tool Company
  • Northfork Sod Farm
  • Lee’s Greenhouse
  • Nature’s Earth
  • Middlecoff Dental Group

The Magic Garden

  •  The garden is a place to touch our sense of wonder.
  •  We eagerly walk the road of discovery of the plants and animals
  • that live here. We are not worried about muddy shoes, dirty hands,
  • or the flying insects that buzz by our heads.
  • It is a place where the odd plants called gourds hang. I notice
  • they are all very different.  Some are long, some stubby, some
  • plump, and some skinny.  Kind of like people, each one special
  • and magnificent in their own way.
  • This is a place where the birds are friendly and join in nature’s
  • band singing beautiful songs that fill the air.
  • It is a place where life begins as we watch the bluebird
  • family feed their young. It is a place where the algae filled pond is
  • home to the frogs that greet us with a croak and splash, soon emerging
  • again when we are still and quiet.
  •  When your new floating friends learn we are not here to harm
  • them, the round frog eyes peak from the water and the fish come
  • out from under the rocks to welcome us into their watery world.
  • The garden is a place where plants go skyrocketing towards the
  • heaven.  We nurture them and enjoy the fruits of our labor.
  • Even the raw green bean, squash, radish and turnip dripping
  • with ranch dressing are a mouth watering delight.
  • It is a place where the fears of the bee and bug goes away. The magic
  • and majesty of this place brings the joy of learning from its hiding place.
  • The garden gives me a hands-on experience going deep into
  • God’s creation and I begin to understand the importance  of
  • every part of the creation. Even the long, slithery rat snake that
  • calls the garden home and helps me appreciate the magic web of life. 
  • All life has its place and should be nurtured and appreciated. I finally get it.
  • From the tiny ant  and wiggle worm to the speedy hummingbird
  • and mischievous raccoon,  they all played a magic role in God’s
  • creation even when I did not see.
  • My eyes have been opened and now I love them all.  I get it! 
  • Every part of the creation has value if I understand it or not. 
  • It is up to me to take the time, stop, look, listen, and learn.
  • My sense of wonder has been found. 
  • The garden really is full of magic everywhere I look. 
  • Thank you garden for teaching me to see the magic in all of God’s creation.

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