Michaela’s Garden

About Michaela’s Garden

Michaela’s Garden Project (MGP) was the vision of Dennis Chapman, Michaela’s Uncle. A farmer at heart, Dennis sought a way to memorialize his youngest niece in a way she would appreciate.

For the past twelve summers, Michaela’s Four O’ Clocks have been re-planted with seeds propagated from her original garden in Cheshire. As a result, MGP continues to have enough seeds to expand and grow.

The project is designed to encourage families and youth to become more involved in community service through gardening. The primary purpose of our project is to use the seeds and flowers as a basis for educational programs, as well as to raise funds to support the mission of the Petit Family Foundation, a 501©3 non-profit organization.

The mission of the Petit Family Foundation, to honor the memories of Jennifer Hawke-Petit, Hayley Elizabeth Petit, and Michaela Rose Petit, extends the kindness, idealism and activism that defined their lives. The Foundation’s funds help foster the education of young people, especially women in the sciences; to improve the lives of those affected by chronic illnesses; and to support efforts to protect and help those affected by violence.

Michaela Petit’s Four O’ Clocks were named the State of Connecticut Children’s Flower on June 19, 2015. Unfortunately, Dennis passed away before this milestone was achieved.

The mission of Michaela’s Garden Project is to see these flowers bloom and thrive in gardens throughout Connecticut and even farther afield. Following the tragic July 2007 home invasion and fire in Cheshire, Connecticut that took the lives of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, Hayley and Michaela, family members removed flowers from a garden that Michaela and her father Bill, had lovingly planted and faithfully maintained. These flowers were Four O’ Clocks, a bright and colorful flower that achieves its beauty at the end of the day, and blooms throughout the night. And today, each flower blooms as a message of life, hope and spirit, all shared from Michaela’s original garden.

 – Dennis Chapman, Founder of Michaela’s Garden Project

About Four O’Clocks

A favorite of Michaela’s, Four O’ Clocks are sturdy, bushy plants with showy red, pink, yellow and white trumpet-shaped flowers. Some blooms are two-toned. On rare occasions, a plant will produce flowers with so called ‘broken colors.’ These blossoms are unique because they can be virtually any combination of colors. Four O’ Clocks are so named because they open their flowers in the late-afternoon (about 4 o’ clock). During the heat of the day blossoms are closed. The blooms remain open overnight, and close again in early morning. They are also known for their strong aromatic fragrance.

Planting Recommendations

  • Planting: Sow seeds after the last threat of frost–about mid-May in Southern New England. 
  • Cover seeds with ¼-inch of soil.
  • Spacing: 18–24 inches apart.
  • Bloom: Shoots emerge in 7 to 14 days, depending on soil temperature and will begin blooming in mid-summer and continue with new blossoms into fall. Plants are carefree but can be pinched to encourage a fuller habit.
  • Height: 36–48 inches if well tended.
  • Exposure: Full sun provides optimal flowering and they will tolerate dry conditions once established in the ground.
  • Caution: Seeds and parts of the foliage are poisonous if ingested. Keep away from pets and small children.
  • Seed collecting: Collect seeds (they look like black peppercorns) as matured flowers wilt. A once-per-week collection schedule is recommended. A large mature plant will yield 3-400 seeds. During and after harvesting, store seeds in a paper bag (not plastic) so seeds can dry.

How you can help Share the Love

You can help the Petit Family Foundation and Michaela’s Garden Project by using your gardening skills to plant Four O’ Clock flowers, harvest the seeds, keep some for your next planting, then share some with us. We count on you to harvest your seeds and send them back to us to keep the cycle of Michaela’s Garden ongoing.

Michaela’s Four O’ Clock seeds are available for a donation of $5, $30 or $50 by visiting our online store. All proceeds support the Foundation and help ensure the continued success of Michaela’s Garden Project.

Current Michaela’s Gardens

Michaela’s Gardens are located throughout Connecticut to honor Michaela, to create awareness and to motivate the positive changes we hope to see in the world:

  • Connecticut Science Center – Hartford, CT
  • Whiting Forensic Hospital – Middletown, CT
  • University of Saint Joseph – West Hartford, CT
  • Ojakian Commons – Simsbury, CT
  • Plainville Public Library – Plainville, CT
  • Killingly Public Library – Danielson, CT
  • Wolcott Public Library – Wolcott, CT
  • Boys & Girls Club of Bristol Family Center – Bristol, CT
  • Walnut Hill Park, New Britain, CT
  • Silas Bronson Library – Bunker Hill Branch – Waterbury, CT
  • Cheshire West Community Butterfly Garden – Cheshire, CT
  • Arts for a Cause Pollinator Garden – Southington, CT
  • Hartford Healthcare Cancer Institute at Hospital of Central CT – New Britain, CT
  • Linden Street Elementary School – Plainville, CT
  • Town of Berlin – Berlin, CT

The Four O’ Clock plants for Michaela’s Garden Project are grown by Geremia Farms, AgriScience Schools and an urban farming organization called New Britain ROOTS. The students enhance their skills and gain knowledge by growing these special plants as part of their curriculum. These student-grown flowers, designated the Official Children’s State Flower of Connecticut, are available in limited quantities each spring.

We hope that Michaela’s Garden Project will continue her legacy by promoting idealism, activism and kindness that encourages future generations to “Be the Change.”

See a feature of Michaela’s Garden on Northeast Living.

Michaela’s Garden Seed Locations

Michaela’s Four O’ Clock seeds are available by visiting our online store.