PEKIN — Children enrolled in YWCA Pekin’s Child Care programs will spend part of the coming summer beautifying their small corner of the community.

DreamScapes Landscaping recently donated compost and zinnia seeds to the YWCA. DreamScapes President Mitch O’Shaughnessy made the presentation on Monday to the YWCA and each of the children there, all 19 of them, received a cup of earth laced with a pinch of flower seeds.

“I picked (zinnias) because they’re fast-growing and very colorful,” he said. “I was going to go with sunflowers, but sunflowers are just one color where zinnias have got purple, red and a little bit of yellow. They’ll be more colorful, and they’ll be more enjoyable for the kids.”

Zoey Mitchell, 11, of Pekin, has some prior experience with gardening, having previously planted vegetables and strawberries. The YWCA’s zinnia project, however, will be her first experience with growing something that is not edible.

“I want to watch them grow and follow their cycle,” she said. “Fruits and vegetables are different because they don’t really sprout. They grow different things on them that turn into fruits or vegetables. You can’t eat flowers, but they look pretty and you can smell them.”

The YWCA has established a garden on the facility’s playground, where the zinnias will eventually be planted. However, recent unseasonably cold weather has caused a delay in outdoor planting so the children will initially grow their zinnias on YWCA window sills, and transplant them to the playground garden next month..

Before distributing compost and zinnia seeds, O’Shaughnessy gave a demonstration on how to plant and care for the flowers.

″(Zinnias) love sun, and they love good dirt,” he said. “The kids will be able to keep them watered, and they’re pretty easy to grow.”

The project is a kick-off for Summer Adventure Camp, a program that offers weekly field trips including fishing excursions, visits to the Peoria riverfront, and Peoria Chiefs baseball games, said Charissa Covington, the YWCA's assistant child care director. Planting zinnias will not only help add beauty and color to the landscape, but will provide a fun way for children to learn responsibility.

“It will teach them how to take care of something and the importance of watering it and making sure it has everything it needs,” she said. “I just thought the kids would enjoy watching the life cycle of the plants. The kids will be out of school in May, so maybe we can begin transplanting them at the beginning of summer.”