Gardening pro ready for child’s play at Jefferson Hills library – Tribune-Review

One common fruit may become a child’s inspiration to grow a whole garden.

That’s what Denise Schreiber is hoping for as she prepares for her April 9 class, All About Apples, at Jefferson Hills Public Library. Children, pre-kindergarten through third-grade, are invited.

Schreiber, a horticulturalist with the Allegheny County parks and a Pleasant Hills resident, said she expects her young audience to be enthusiastic and to ask easy questions, such as, “How do you grow it? Why does it taste sweet?�

Her first thought had been to have children plant some seeds and watch them grow. “A bean, cucumber or pumpkin seedling doesn’t like living in the house for two months before you can plant it outside,â€� she said.

So her research began. Apples came with references the children might know such as Johnny Appleseed and Snow White, but she wasn’t sure if that one might make them afraid of the fruit.

She’ll bring in apples — from red delicious to Granny Smith — for them to taste and compare and allow them to do a word puzzle on apples.

Ann Zettl, the children’s librarian, who attended Schreiber’s edible flowers presentation and a few of her other classes, asked her to teach a class.

“I knew she’d be the perfect person for this,â€� Zettl said. “She has a world of knowledge.â€�

Schreiber’s love of gardening began at age 5. Her family of gardeners had a double lot in Swissvale, where they planted tomatoes, carrots, other vegetables, roses and ferns.

“It was a jungle land,â€� she said. “I was the only one small enough to climb in and pick the tomatoes, which I didn’t like then.â€�

Today, she grows cherry tomatoes, so she can eat as she gardens and listen to music.

With 30 years of professional experience, she still makes discoveries of plants’ little secrets and wants to pass along the joys of working with Mother Nature to the children.

“Kids think food comes from Giant Eagle,� she said.

Decades ago, people got away from growing many of their foods. “It was the advent of the TV dinner when it started,� Schreiber said. “This was convenience, and convenience took over.�

She also sees climate change as a real threat. “We need to have local food sources,� she said, and that can be as local as a backyard.

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5803 or


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