Chapter 1: Greenhouse Greetings
1 Greenhouse Greetings
Shamrock felt the spring air brush his cheek as he made his way across the Friendly Fields of Unicorn University. The tall grasses swayed, and the few clouds in the sky looked like huge wispy feathers. It was a chilly afternoon, and his glasses clouded over as he breathed. He wondered why his lenses always fogged up like that in the cold, and he made a mental note to look it up in the library later.
Science was always Shamrock’s favorite subject at Unicorn University. He loved studying and learning about the ways things worked, even out of the classroom. Potions had to be his favorite class of all, though—he loved following each step in the process to create something magical. But it was a new semester, and instead of Potions class, he had Garden Science. He and his classmates would learn all about magical plants in the five kingdoms—and how to grow them! Shamrock was really excited. He had read the textbook, Gardening 101, last night and couldn’t wait to start studying different plants.
Once he reached the edge of the Friendly Fields, Shamrock found himself at the greenhouse, where Garden Science class was held. The structure looked like a house made of big glass windows, even on the roof. Shamrock had read in his textbook that the windows let lots of sunshine in during the day and then trapped the heat inside after sunset, when the air outside cooled down.
He pushed open the door and felt like he was entering another world. The air was warm and a little sticky, and the whole room smelled like soil. Which made sense, as there were plants growing everywhere! Different kinds of plants of every size and color and shape, from a crinkly-leafed fern to a bright pink sunflower.
Looking around, Shamrock realized he was the first student there. He always like to be early on the first day so he could pick his spot and get ready. Searching around the room, he found the perfect table in the corner. It was big—perfect for him and his three best friends—and seemed like the cleanest one, although there were still a few clumps of dirt and empty pots scattered about. Shamrock thought back to his Potions class, with its clean tables and shelves of glass bottles with their neat labels. He had to admit, he liked his neat Potions classroom better. Shamrock liked to be organized, and there was something about this messy greenhouse that made him feel a little squirmy.
As Shamrock settled in, other students started to arrive, and soon the greenhouse was filled with the sounds of unicorns chatting and laughing. Shamrock’s friends Comet, Sapphire, and Twilight came in and sat by him.
“Wow,” Twilight said softly. She was gazing around in awe. “This place is magical. I wonder if this is how fairies feel in gardens.” With a hoof that was painted bright green, she pointed to some of the bigger plants that hung from the ceiling. Her green hoof stood out against her jet-black coat but blended into the plants all around them. Shamrock wondered if she’d chosen to paint her hooves green just for Garden Science class.
“I know what you mean!” Comet said. “It feels like we shrank down to tiny unicorns. A lot of these plants are bigger than us!” Comet whipped her short, cropped mane around to look behind her—almost knocking a potted plant down in the process.
Sapphire reached a bright blue hoof over to catch the pot just in time and pushed it back onto its table.
She chuckled. “I have no idea what you guys are talking about. But it is cool in here!”
Shamrock was with Sapphire. Comet and Twilight were the artists in their group and sometimes spoke in their own dreamy language. Twilight was a painter, and Comet was an artist at baking pastries.
“I’m pretty excited about this class,” Twilight told them. “Growing up on a farm, I learned a lot from my parents about gardening, so I feel… well, I guess I feel confident?”
Comet laughed. “Yay, Twilight! You totally should. You’re the only one in our stable who has kept a plant alive in her stall. You’ll be great.”
Shamrock nodded in agreement. He was happy to see his friend feeling so confident. Twilight could be shy, and she didn’t always believe in herself as much as she should.
“Well, actually…” Peppermint, a snow-white unicorn with a red-and-white-striped mane, leaned over from her table to theirs. “I heard that the garden professor is super scary and loves pop quizzes!”
Shamrock smiled. “That would be all right! I’ve already studied the intro to gardening book the professor assigned. I would ace any quiz.”
“I love that attitude!” The whole class turned to where a dark green unicorn stood in the corner of the greenhouse. Her horn was covered in dirt, and there were leaves tangled in her long green mane. At first glance she looked like another one of the plants! Shamrock wondered how long she had been there without anyone noticing. He felt embarrassed about bragging now.
The dark green unicorn stepped into the light. The whole class could see she was smiling wide. Shamrock thought she seemed friendly, but with all that dirt he didn’t think she looked much like a scientist. His potions professor always wore a clean white lab coat.
“I’m Professor Grub,” she told the class. “And I hope by the end of this class you’ll all love the magic of gardening as much as I do.” On the table in front of her was a jar filled with what looked like hundreds of pebbles of different shapes and sizes. She pushed the jar over so the pebbles spilled onto the wooden table. Using her hoof, she spread them out. Shamrock realized that they were seeds, and that each one was different. Some were big and round, but some were so tiny that you had to squint to see them. “Each one of these seeds has the potential to grow into something amazing. They are filled with magic—and we can help that magic flourish by planting and caring for them. That is what garden science is all about.”
Shamrock tilted his head, feeling puzzled. This was not the way he was used to talking about science. But as he looked around, he saw that most of the class was inspired by her words. Everyone was smiling and looking at the tiny pebbles as if they were fairy dust. Comet and Twilight were especially entranced.
“For your first homework assignment,” Professor Grub started to say next, “I want you each to find a seed you’d like to grow over the next few months. Think about your own life and interests, what kind of flower you would want to grow, and why.”
Homework was something Shamrock enjoyed, but growing something already? Didn’t they need to learn more first?
Shamrock’s classmates started excitedly talking to one another about what kind of plants they’d like to grow. To his right, Sapphire was mentioning aloe, and Comet seemed set on daisies. But Shamrock scrunched his eyebrows, feeling a little worried. Had he missed an assignment? He hadn’t studied seeds yet. He had focused on the parts of a plant and the climate they lived in here in Sunshine Springs. So how could he know which would be the perfect seed to grow?
Shamrock worried he was already behind. This was a new feeling, and he did not like it one bit.