I’m currently creating a tiny garden for my son’s pre-school. In preparation for planting, I’ve just been unloading a cubic metre of compost to improve the soil. Necessary, but hardly exciting work, so I’ve decided to take a break and dwell for a while on the far more interesting subject of the plants themselves.
With so little space on offer, it’s vitally important I make the right decisions about what to include. As such, I thought I’d go all Top of the Pops and do a rundown of my favourite plants for children.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) – it smells wonderful but is tough enough to survive children squeezing it for an aromatic ‘hit’. It will also root very easily so you can even let junior gardeners try a bit of propagation.
Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus) – annuals are great for impatient children and these are easy to grow – just sow seeds in pots in spring and you will have an abundance of hot-coloured flowers which can even be eaten in salads.
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) – if you plant a few of these within paving, they’ll break up monotonous slabs and release a great aroma whenever little gardeners tread on them
Lamb’s Ears (Stachys byzantina) – these leaves just have to be touched – so soft, so furry, so popular with little ones
Ornamental onion (Allium giganteum) – huge purple flowerheads tower over children, yet are simple enough for them to grow from a bulb
Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis) – very useful groundcover but it’s the leaves I love – they hold dew drops on their downy surface – apparently put their by fairies
Sweet Pea (Lathyris odorata) – these are fun to grow every season and best of all, children can pick their flowers everyday
Verbena (Verbena bonariensis) – I’ve never been convinced by the appeal of Buddlejas- they’re weeds in my book – so instead I use this wonderful plant to attract butterflies. Beautiful purple flowers seen to float high above other plantings without blocking them out and they provide a great landing pad for butterflies galore
Chinese fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides) – children love the tactile nature of grasses and this one has the added benefit of beautiful soft bristles in late summer
Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) – an obvious choice for many reasons; children can grow them with ease, they’ll tower above everyone in a matter of weeks and the heads form great birdfeeders when the flowers go over.
I’m sure I’ve missed out some worthy candidates so please feel free to let me know my inexcusable ommissions. Right now though I’d best get back to reality and shift some more spent mushroom compost.