Detroit Free Press, 2010

Singapore a classroom for Dexter family

Children get life lessons as father displays at garden festival


It began with an invitation to design a garden for the 2010 Singapore Garden Festival, a show that aims to bring the finest designers from around the globe to one spectacular event.

My husband, John, and I own a Dexter-based garden design-build firm and he participated in 2008, but this time, we opted to bring the entire family along for the event, which ran July 15-22.

While I work with John at the family business, my primary focus is on the education of our four children, 21 months to 9 years. I homeschool our children, and gardening has been very useful in passing on a sense of responsibility, the value of hard work and a love for the natural sciences which goes far beyond knowledge found in a book.

And John's suggestion that we all travel to Singapore for two weeks sounded like a perfect learning opportunity for the entire family.

A lot of hard work is involved in making and keeping spaces beautiful, and we often invite our children to participate in garden shows to help them grow in responsibility and gain a greater appreciation for gardening.

As we prepared for the trip, our eldest son took on the responsibility of watering 12 espaliered Kieffer pear trees, which were an integral design element in the garden. It was so satisfying to see this 7-year-old water the trees day in and day out without having to be reminded.

When the opening day of the show finally arrived, our children could not wait to see the gardens at the exhibition center. They admired the details they had so often seen in drawings and experienced them in a more satisfying way. We have participated in many garden shows, but what makes the Singapore Garden Festival so unique is the way this one brings garden luminaries from the East and the West together.

I was struck by how many young children attended the show, and it reinforced in my mind the duty we have to train the next generation of gardeners.

Garden shows are a wonderful way to get children excited about gardening. We plan to continue to make these events an important part of our own children's life experiences.

I hope that these beautiful moments will remain with us and unite us as a family as we continue this journey together, both in and out of the garden.

Moira Cullen and her husband own and operate Celtic Gardens ( in Dexter. She can be reached at .