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Their little green thumbs were very much in evidence as Salt Lake's youngest volunteers (pre-kindergartners) made a visit to the greenhouse at Liberty Park recently. But these children came bearing gifts. The classes at Matheson and the Central City Head Start schools planted "dainty Marietta" marigolds last February and presented the flowers to Brooks Hatfield, director of greenhouses for Salt Lake City Parks and Recreation Department.

The seedlings will be planted in the median planter boxes on First South in front of the Deseret News building and in urns along Main Street.The youngsters planted seeds that were donated by a local nursery in flats provided by Salt Lake City Parks and Recreation. After carefully nurturing the seedlings for three months, the excited children prepared to donate them to the city.

On a field trip to the Liberty Park greenhouse, the children were shown the flowers Hatfield has been growing for the city's parks and flower beds. The flowers being grown ranged from zinnias to impatiens, dahlias and snapdragons to the ornamental basil with sawtooth leaves and the santalina sage that forms the Liberty Park "calendar" flower bed of red and dusty green.

"We hope that children will have a stake in the beautification of the city," said Tamara Wharton, volunteer coordinator for Salt Lake City. "The Parks Department has a vested interest in the maintenance of the city's parks, and this project is reaching out to 250 children who will be seeing `their' flowers on our city streets now."

The marigold project was initiated by Salt Lake City and is in its second year. Word of its success has reached a Pennsylvania city that is eager to implement the project with the children there.

The director of Salt Lake Head Start, Louise Jorgenson, was impressed with the tender care the children used to hand over the flats of marigolds to Hatfield. She noted that one of the schools had been allowed to keep a flat to beautify the school grounds. City Council member Florence Bittner was also on hand to watch the 2,000-marigold gift-giving.

While the children may have had a tough time giving up the plants they had cared for and watered for three months, the parting was smoothed by a kind donation. Arctic Circle gave each child participating a free milkshake.