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I have yet to meet a child who doesn’t love flowers—and kids are so non-discriminatory when it comes to the blooms they choose. Even the most common flowers inspire a sense of intrigue in a young person’s eyes. Dandelions, with their puffy, yellow flower heads are just begging for tiny hands to come pick them, and clovers become not just part of the pasture landscape but pretty petals that inspire handmade crowns and necklaces. When considering kids’ love for blooms that come in all shapes, sizes and colors, incorporating flowers into a children’s garden just makes sense.
As you guide your children along in their flower-garden selections, keep a couple of things in mind. First, avoid plants that could be poisonous when ingested, particularly if you have infants and toddlers who will crawl through the garden. Beyond that, consider a theme for your garden. Maybe you want a tasting garden—yes, flowers are edible, too—or a sensory garden, where the plants have distinct textures and scents. Perhaps your little ones have creative minds and would be inspired to create a fairy garden, full of flowers where magical creatures sleep, eat and play, or a craft garden, where the flowers become the building blocks of creation. Or maybe they want to create a secret garden or “living” room, where they can build a fort or stow away to read a book.
Below are some flowers that your children might consider growing that could be included in any of the above children’s garden themes. All are easy to grow and have characteristics that will inspire wonder in your children this growing season.
Sunflowers, with their huge blooms and quick growth habit, are an obvious choice for any children’s garden. While a big ol’ yellow sunflower is sure to capture any child’s imagination, also consider including varieties of various sizes and colors into your children’s garden. Plant some for eating the seeds, others for arranging bouquets, and still others for simply enjoying in the garden and seeing what wildlife they attract.
For a bit of fun, plant the sunflowers in the garden as the walls for a secret hideaway for your children. Group them in a ring, allowing room on the inside for a few children to be able to play. Fill in with some other low-growing flowers, and it will create the perfect space for sharing secrets and playing pretend.
The sweet periwinkle stars that make up the borage plant’s blooms are not only childlike in their nature, they are a delightful edible that you’ll enjoy introducing to your children. The flowers have a refreshing, cucumber-like flavor that kids can nibble on while playing outside. The flowers can also be harvested for adding to salads (what kid could resist a salad made with flowers?) or creating pretty confections. The leaves have a rough, mildly prickly texture that adds nice contrast to a sensory garden, and if your child is into crafts, use the flowers or roots as a natural dye. Borage is also is a particularly great selection for a children’s garden containing strawberries, as it serves as a companion plant to attract pollinators.
If you want color, snapdragons are a must for the children’s garden, as they come in every color in the rainbow except for blue, and they will be one of the first flowers to pop out of the garden in the spring. Children throughout time have had fun playing with the flowers, which can be made to move like a dragon snapping its jaws. When the flowers die back, the faded bud also looks like a skull, which could conjure up some additional stories in a child’s mind. While this a plant that’s technically edible, it’s not super tasty, so you probably won’t coax your kid into eating a salad with this one, but you also don’t have to worry about him or her noshing on a bloom.
Calendula has bright orange or yellow daisy-like flowers that your children will love to pick. They can be planted straight into the bed or in pots. I prefer calendula—also called the pot marigold—to the marigold more commonly seen along garden borders and potted plants because it’s a great medicinal herb that can be used in children’s remedies, particularly soothing skin treatments for bug bites, sunburns and rashes. This plant can be a great way to introduce budding herbalists to how to infuse make an infused oil—a great summertime project to show how we can benefit from the garden all times of year.
5. Scented Geranium
If your child always has his or her nose in a flower, scented geraniums offer an olfactory experience unlike no other. Plant some scented geraniums in any scent you can imagine: rose, lemon, apple, cinnamon, peppermint and even chocolate. It’s not only the flowers that smell good, but the leaves as well. These perennial plants typically do best as houseplants or potted plants, as they will die in cold weather, but in southern regions where winters are mild, they can be planted in the ground. You need only to prune them as they grow—and use those prunings to flavor your favorite dish.
What child can resist the bright, tropical blossoms of a hibiscus? These flowers come in many different shades, and although they are warm-loving plants, many are hardy to the cooler regions of the U.S. Hibiscus do well as potted plants and can be trained to vine up structures, such as a child’s play gym. The flowers make a beautiful, tart iced tea for summer, or you can make a syrup with your children for adding to honey-sweetened homemade sodas or drizzling on ice cream for a summertime treat.
These are just a small selection of the many flowers that children can enjoy. Open up a seed catalog or visit your local plant nursery to find out which flowers appeal to them most. Chances are, if your child falls in love with a flower, it’s a great one to include in the garden.