The warm June sun shines down on mustard marigolds highlighting Zoe’s Edible Garden as Michael Dansberger takes his afternoon stroll to check on the newborn tomatoes already poking through leaves. Dansberger has taken over caring for the garden outside the Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital cafeteria this spring and he takes it very personally. He gently plucks a bright red tomato from the vine, instinctively drawing it up to his face. He breathes in its freshness and offers it up to the sun for a closer look.
He nods with approval and reaches down to pull a weed growing next to a patch of thyme. “I’ll leave it right here,” he says as he gently sets the perfect tomato down next to its source. “One of the kids can take it home. Soon we’ll invite them out here to help us harvest.”
Zoe’s Garden, with its beautifully personal history, has a special meaning to Dansberger, himself a newly minted grandfather.
Well-known and beloved chef Tyson Grant, from Parkshore Grill, in downtown St. Petersburg, along with his wife, Sommer, started the garden in 2011 in memory of their newborn, Zoe, who passed away at 3 weeks old. They wanted other children at the hospital to enjoy its wonders and learn the benefits of vegetables, fruits and herbs.
Dansberger, director of environmental services, understands the meaning of the garden more than ever with his own infant granddaughter Jocelyn recently enduring multiple heart surgeries.
The precariousness of delicate gardens and fragile newborns is on his mind a lot. Reflective moments among the green can unexpectedly bring people and experiences together.
Memories. Fears. Joys.
They grow right alongside the tomatoes.