PUNXSUTAWNEY — As the first “Garden of the Month” for the summer of 2011, the recipient — the IUP Academy of Culinary Arts — probably has the most functional use of all gardens in town.
Some of the plants in the garden — cited for the month of May by the Punxsutawney Garden Club — are edible herbs, such as mint, sage, oregano, chives, thyme, peppers and others, that may be used in dishes prepared by culinary students.
“I want to know if the peppers are extremely hot,” said Richard Manslow, project director for Indiana University of Pennsylvania. “I’m dying to know.”
The IUP Academy of Culinary Arts’ building along South Gilpin Street has been in place since 1990, according to Chef Instructor Martha Jo Rupert.
A few years ago, PennDOT began its project to renovate the curb along South Gilpin Street/Route 119 and the school’s parking lot.
“It was a good time,” Manslow said about the project. “The culinary school always wanted to get a better parking facility and fix that area.”
Four years ago, when PennDOT began examining the project, it was performed in conjunction with the culinary academy, he said.
“The biggest thing with that was trying to utilize the edible plants with the culinary school,” Manslow said.
The garden could not begin until the PennDOT project was complete, Rupert said. It was completed last spring.
Many of the plants near the main entrance of the culinary academy are girard scarlet azaleas, hummingbird summersweet, hamelin dwarf fountain grass and arctic fire dogwood.
Lining the front part of the school facing Gilpin Street are red-twig dogwoods, more azaleas and pawpaw.
The herb gardens are placed alongside another side of the building in a location where students — who help maintain the herb gardens — can access them from the kitchen.
According to Manslow, the architect on the parking area was Civil & Environmental Consultants of Pittsburgh, while the contractor was HRI Inc. That firm subcontracted Green Valley Landscaping Inc. of State College for the planting.
Weather has been a challenge for any garden in this area, but Rupert said, “This will be really nice when it takes hold. It’s a nice welcome to our little green town.”