AIKEN - Sounds of laughter filled Aiken High School's horticulture room as students arrived early for their 7 p.m. class.
"These aren't like my high school kids," teacher Joe Wilson said. "These students show up to class early and leave late."
Each week, Mr. Wilson stays after school to teach about 50 adults the art of gardening in the South's sandy soil. After 33 years at Aiken High, Mr. Wilson has created an extensive horticulture program he shares with residents for a nominal fee.
The year-round class covers everything from the basics of how to start a garden to more advanced skills.
Class topics range from learning about bluebirds and snakes to the art of pruning roses.
Mr. Wilson said he sometimes sees familiar faces return, even if the person has completed a Master Gardener course.
"I wonder how much can they learn, but they always seem to get something different out of it," Mr. Wilson said.
But each year, new and old faces return and feed off one another's passion and interest in gardening.
"You meet all kinds of different people here," Dan Racki said. "So many have such gifts in different specialities, so you're always learning."
Classmates catch up on news from the past week and share gardening tips while traveling from the classroom to the greenhouse to transplant buds.
Inside the greenhouse there are bursts of red, purple, pink and greens that normally don't appear until spring.
But the green thumbs in the horticulture class already have plant life covering every inch of available space. Before long, the class will have to take some space from the high school students.
Newcomers Barbara and Bill Ebert said they were attracted to the class because, having moved from Ohio, they knew nothing about Southern plant life.
"I like my backyard, and I wanted to keep it that way," Mr. Ebert said while laughing about why he needed the class. "It is something to do, and I'm learning a lot more than I ever expected."
Mrs. Ebert said she is glad the class still covers the basics of working in the yard because anyone can use a refresher course.
"I've learned how to utilize what we have down here," she said. "When we moved here all we had was pine trees and sand."
Reach Julia Sellers at (803) 648-1395, ext. 106, or email@example.com
WHEN: Mondays at 7 p.m.
WHERE: Aiken High School
CONTACT: Dan Racki at (803) 641-0441