Garden Plants for Children to Grow
Child gardening can be so much fun and very rewarding – most children enjoy growing garden plants from seed and space should be left for plant beds. The emphasis will be on quickly germinating seeds, often, which produce a lot of growth and flower within a few weeks.
Vegetables are sometimes grown, such asand , raddish or . All grow quickly and have the added advantage of being safely edible making them ideal for child gardening.
The range of flowers to grow is wide, but an initial selection can be made from those flowers which the small child can play with.
Antirrhinums can provide endless fun for ‘nipping’ noses, and double daisies (Bellis perennis ‘Flore-pleno’ ) can be grown to provide material for daisy chains. Foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea ) make tiny gloves for dolls, and nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) leaves make dolls’ hats.
Children usually like to see results quickly. For this reason, a few varieties of annuals should be provided as they give a range of flowers throughout the summer. Some of the easiest to grow, and which flower in a short time, are: Calendula; Linum; Linaria, and Viscaria. Some seeds of these subjects can be mixed up together, and the whole be sown on one patch or area, to provide a colourful display.
Good kinds of annuals to try include mignonette (Reseda odorata), with long-lasting spikes of scented yellowish flowers, clarkia with pink, lilac or purple flowers, the multicoloured candytuft (umbellata), love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena) with its blue spiky flowers, and Chinese lanterns (Physalis franchetii) with orange ‘balloons’. The last two can be dried, painted or sprayed to make Christmas decorations.
Amongst other plants which appeal to children are those that change with the time of day or type of weather. The morning glory (Ipomoea tricolor) will rapidly grow up a wall and its blue and white flowers open early in the morning and close by mid-afternoon. The Californian poppy (Eschscholzia californica) is another example, having brilliant red or orange flowers which open and close during the day. , daisies and thistles are all plants that will not open their flowers in damp or rainy weather.
Gourds are unusual plants that will appeal to children because of their quick growth; they produce a range of strangely coloured and shaped fruit that can be dried and varnished to retain their colour. Loofahs and giant sunflowers can also readily be grown from seed; sow indoors at the end of May and later transfer outside to a sheltered corner.
Althoughcan be great fun, children will enjoy planting a tree and watching it grow. Do remember that fully grown trees can take up a great deal of space and may cut out sunlight from house and garden. Smaller trees: birch, whitebeam (Sorbus aria), alders, crab apples (Malus), or snake-bark maples (Acer grosseri hersii and A. pennsylvanicum) suit most children’s gardens and grow fast enough for the children to measure regularly. Larger trees can be raised from seed, horse-chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) from conkers and oaks (Quercus) from acorns.
Remember that some leaves, flowers,fruit and seeds can be poisonous. Ensure that you always properly supervise the younger child. Gardening with older children is a little easier but they should still always be warned of the dangers.