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Gardening with my children

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Bob Flowerdew Bob Flowerdew | 07:00 UK time, Friday, 22 April 2011

I guess it is highly unrealistic to hope my children will follow in my footsteps- observation tends to suggest the opposite. Worse; the more you push children (of any age up) into something the more they resist, whilst forbid something and they’re immediately attracted.

Lonicera syringantha

Lonicera syringantha

Still you do what you can. I try not to make them have an interest in my garden and the natural world but I do show them interesting things in it and especially the smells. From when my twins were babies I've brought flowers, held these under their noses whilst telling the names. I continue to do so.

We have just been comparing the little known Lonicera syringantha, which has small pinkish flowers on delicate arching stems and the similar though larger whiter flowers of Viburnum carlesii, both are sweet, Daphne come gardenia like, really delicious. I frequently crush leaves to smell; the rankness of the inedible cow parsley is how to know it from the very similar looking but edible, tasty, aniseed scented, sweet Cicely.

Elder is another easily recognised rank smell while Jack-by-the-hedge is garlic. From the car, trees are named and slowly recognised from Silver birch on. We even drive out of our way to spot ‘the blue tree’ a ceanothus, when it’s blooming. I never miss an opportunity- as we walk to school I pull cleavers to throw and stick on them, chase them with stinging nettles, and then point out red spotty and healing docks from similar slightly hairy comfrey and burdock leaves.

The hens, and now the chicks, yes -four so far, are a constant source of interest, and entertainment- despite instructions the twins enjoy chasing hens- fortunately the orchard is big and hens nimble. The rabbit has been less successful, as predicted I’ve had to take over, and for weeks on end it could be replaced by a furry toy and they'd not spot it. I notice my ‘child persecuted’ cats have spent more in the garden ever since the twins arrived, they're now snoozing on top the inner polythene tunnel cover, warm as it's a foot or so underneath the top one, and there the kids can't spot or get to them.


I do see huge differences between the twins- the boy Malachi is so physical -he picks up stout canes and decapitates stinging nettles with great vigour, for a very short time, then is off pushing, shoving, bending or jumping on something else. The girl Italia asks questions, always watches, wants to copy and will accurately count out things for me, water with a small can, and will sow one seed apiece in a multicelled tray (a task that soon defeats Malachi’s attention span).

But what do they like most- well strawberries are very high on the list, blueberries and raspberries next. But a treat is being given trowels and buckets for playing sandpits on a veg bed, and when it's hot and sunny getting really dirty and muddy and then being chased with a hose.


  • Comment number 1.

    I feel that children can only benefit from learning and more important actually
    helping around the garden.
    I have a 4 year old who is now keen to plant seeds, wait and watch them grow
    and appreciate the outdoor life
    Remember..involve the children.

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    Gardening as a child definetly had a huge impact on me. We were allowed a little 5'x6' section in the garden growing up and it was great to have the responsibility and the reward of the produce from the garden. Then when I went to work on my grandparent's farm in the summers my grandmother taught me everything I need to know about flowers which really gave me a passion to work in my current field, where I operate a landscape companies

  • Comment number 4.

    I have a just-3 year old who is keen to help in the garden (his forte is sprinkling organic fertiliser pellets as I pot things) but is also a bit of a plant killer is left unattended ("look mummy! I got a plant!" as he rips a beetroot seedling up). I am going to try growing a sunflower with him in his own pot. I guess the worst that can happen is that I end up growing dwarf sunflowers myself... at best he will hopefully enjoy doing it "all by myself". And continuing to try to interest him in the new seedlings, the bees, the flowers...

  • Comment number 5.

    As a child, my parents endeavoured to pass on their enthusiasm for growing flowers and food but believed themselves truly defeated by my determination to be a show jumper. However, much to their astonishment, wherever life took me, I made a garden and not only because I missed wholesome food, I wanted to be surrounded by the lovely colours and scents which sooth the soul. Unconsciously, I had absorbed a love of gardening …..unless it’s in the genes. Either way, don’t be downhearted, your twins will surprise you one day.


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