Share it! Science : Grow a Themed Flower Garden with your Children

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Grow a Themed Flower Garden with your Children

 

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Planting a garden with children can be a rewarding experience for both kids and adults. With a little imagination you can create a themed children's garden that your kids or students will enjoy planting and observing. Read on for ideas on how to create a Rainbow Garden or a garden for your favorite pollinators- hummingbirds, butterflies or bees, inspired by children's picture books.  
     
My inspiration for this post comes from 2 picture books by Lois Ehlert, "Planting a Rainbow" and "Waiting for Wings". These are both books I enjoy reading to my students in the springtime and are the perfect launching point for themed flower gardens. 
 
 
A Rainbow Garden:
Ehlert's beautiful and bright collage style illustrations and simple text make "Planting a Rainbow" appealing to even the youngest of audiences. It begins: "Every year Mom and I plant a rainbow." Wouldn't it be fun to plant a rainbow with your children? It turns out, it is not that difficult. There are many possibilities, whether it is starting from seeds, bulbs, or seedlings. You can create your own rainbow combination, or follow the ROY G. BIV color scheme.
      
Planting from bulbs: If you follow the rainbow garden in the story, Ehlert describes red and orange tulips, orange tiger lilies, yellow daffodils, blue hyacinth, purple crocus, and purple bearded iris. These are all plants grown from bulbs. Bulbs are often planted in the fall to bloom in the spring, however, they can also be planted after the last frost in the spring for summer blooms. (Click on flower images for more information)
 

       



Planting from seeds: In the story, red zinnias, orange daisies and marigolds, pink phlox, blue morning glories, blue cornflower, and purple asters are chosen for seeds. It would be fun to visit your local garden supply store and have your children help you choose the seeds that will make a rainbow. Marigolds and nasturtiums are great red, yellow and orange choices for small hands. They are easy to plant and are not too picky about where they grow. You can also easily collect and save their seeds to plant again the next year. 
Morning Glory ©Sarah Benton Feitlinger
Planting from seedlings: The story continues on to describe the rainbow seedlings the mother and child buy: red poppies and roses, blue delphinium, purple violets and pansies, green ferns, and pink carnations. My recommendations for purchasing seedlings for children would be purple pansies and violas, pink impatiens and petunias in a variety of colors. These are fairly hearty and will bloom for quite some time, two factors to keep in mind when choosing plants for young gardeners.

 

 
Rainbow vegetables too? If you'd like to include some edibles in your colorful garden you might consider including some rainbow vegetables in the mix. Chard is a healthy green that can grow with brilliant stem colors. You might try: Bright Lights, Neon Glow or Garden Rainbow. Another fascinating rainbow plant to try growing are heirloom carrots. They come in many more options than the orange we are accustomed to! Try Circus tricolor, or Purple Sun.

Planting perennials: If you have space and the desire to grow your flowers for more than one season, you might consider some perennials other than the bulbs mentioned above. There are many options for color here as well. See this infographic for some ideas. 

Networx - The Garden, A Living Coloring Book

Pollinator Gardens:
The second Lois Ehlert book that might inspire your theme garden is "Waiting for Wings". This story focuses on the life cycle of a butterfly with simple text and brilliant illustrations. The bright flowering plants in this story are nice for butterflies, but there are many other important pollinators you might wish to lure to your garden as well- like hummingbirds and bees.

Pollinators are very important because without them we would not have the fruits, nuts, berries and vegetables we enjoy! Planting flowers that attract butterflies, hummingbirds and bees not only adds interest and opportunities for science exploration in the flower garden, but also can improve the production of your vegetable garden. You may wish to investigate pollinator gardens through the following links:

Butterfly Garden:
In "Waiting for Wings" you'll see butterflies on big, bright flowers like hollyhocks, purple coneflower, zinnias, black-eyed susans and gaillardia. 
(click on flower images for more information)
 












These are all lovely choices for your flower garden. You might have even chosen some of them for your rainbow garden! Butterflies also enjoy lilacs and milkweed. A personal favorite of mine, that will also lure hummingbirds, is bee balm. I call it the "firework flower" as this perennial's red blooms look like they are bursting open like a firework.
Bee Balm, or Monarda ©Sarah Benton Feitlinger

Pollinators love sunflowers! Sunflowers are an excellent choice to plant with children. Many varieties have large seeds that are easy for small hands to handle, and they are not difficult to grow.
A sunflower with a butterfly and a bee guest. ©Ross Feitlinger
There are so many options for a butterfly garden. Rather than pick your own mix of blooms you might want to choose a mix of seeds specifically aimed at attracting butterflies like the Seeds for a Butterfly Garden pack from Renee's Garden. This includes heirloom zinnias, white cosmos and red sunflowers.

For more links to butterfly gardening check out the following:

Hummingbird Garden:
Hummingbirds are beautiful little wonders. They are a fascinating addition to a garden. These tiny birds love red tubular flowers with lots of nectar. Good choices are bee balm (pictured above), honeysuckles, salvias, wild bergamot (bee balm), lupines and one of my favorites, nasturtiums. 

 
Nasturtiums ©Sarah Benton Feitlinger
Nasturtiums are a great pick for children. Not only are the seeds large and easy to plant, but they do not require much care or even very good soil. In fact, they flower better in low nutrient soil! Additionally, the leaves and the flowers of the nasturtium are edible. They have a little bite like a radish. Kids love taste testing things in the garden (with supervision of course!).
     
Adding a hummingbird feeder to the garden will increase your odds of having a humming little visitor. Follow this link to Ranger Rick magazine for a plan to make a hummingbird feeder out of recycled items. The National Wildlife Federation includes a recipe to make nectar for your hummingbird feeder here

Female ruby-throated hummingbird. ©Feitlinger
Renee's Garden offers a pack of seeds that attract hummingbirds that includes Scarlet Runner bean, Summer Charm nasturtium and Scarlet Flame zinnia. 
 

Check out this link from the Brooklyn Botanical Garden for ideas on how to design your hummingbird garden.

Attracting Bees to the Garden:
Although many of us associate bees with painful stings, they are a very important part of the garden ecosystem. When left alone, they cause us no harm. There are many different types of bees and if you create a flower garden described above you will begin to attract these important insects as well. If you are a vegetable gardener or have fruit trees you will see a more productive harvest if you invite bees to your property. For extensive information on bees and bee types, visit this article from Mother Earth News about different types of bees and how to attract them to your garden.
Bees on Purple Cone Flower (Echinacea) ©SBF
Bee pollinating a squash blossom. ©SBF

This is not a sponsored post, however, Renee's Garden Seeds has generously provided the prizes for the sunflower seed giveaway. 9 winners will receive 2 packets of sunflower seeds. Varieties include: Sun Samba, Moonshadow, Music Box, Van Gogh, Cinnamon Sun, Bright Bandolier, Lemon Queen, Snack Seed, The Birds and the Bees, Valentine, Heirloom Titan, Royal Flush, Chocolate Cherry and Sunzilla. We will randomly pick 2 seed packets and ship them to you if you are a winner. The giveaway will run from April 16th, 2015 - April 22nd, 2015 11:59PM, EST. Good luck!

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