Gardening and plants … through a child’s eyes

Thoughtful Gardening by Ed Ikin

Gardening and plants have long been a passion of mine.  I’ve spoken before about how my obsession began and my desire to instill a love of the natural world in my children.  I spend much time explaining to them that plants are integral to our emotional, spiritual and physical health.

And whilst I’m not a teacher, I inherently know children benefit tremendously by witnessing firsthand the amazing lessons Mother Nature can offer.  Introducing your children to concepts such as colours, shapes, numbers & letters, time, the web (and cycle) of life within the context of nature and plants provides hours of creative and educational fun.  The senses are also fired up.  And you’ll be surprised at just how much your own view of plants can be enhanced when experienced through a child’s eyes…

Recently, my children and I were lucky enough to visit some beautiful gardens in Europe and played many games based on the senses and simple concepts such as shapes and numbers.  In Italy, where the sun shone brightly, everything seemed to be bursting from the ground.  We explored the senses of taste and smell each day, having discovered the largest sage bush I’ve ever seen.  Parsley, wild thyme, sweet marjoram, rosemary and garlic plants were also on offer.

Grace picking leaves for 'pollo con burro e salvia bruciata'.

In Gloucestershire, we looked for every colour on the warm spectrum we could find.  Some of the results were spectacular.

"A bush of mini suns." Grace Webster

"These almost hurt my eyes." Grace Webster

"Thistles come in dark pink? Cool." Grace Webster

In Cornwall, my daughter conceptualised a new colour for this bloom, calling it “blurple”.  We decided indigo was also a good descriptor and that the shape of the petals were like masses of mini hearts.

"A 'blurple' hydrangea." Grace Webster

We listened to the wind and the sound of our laughter here.  And we enjoyed space to run wildly about.

"It sounds like the wind in the grass at our farm." Angus Webster

A touch of rain didn’t stop us.

"It's going 'kerplunk' and I can hear a frog too." Grace Webster

We wondered at the majesty of trees.

"I wonder how many of me it would take to be as tall as this tree? Can you see the giraffes Mama?" Grace Webster

In France the sound of the bees’ lazy droning made us very happy.

"Buzz, buzz, I wonder why he does?" Grace Webster

Whilst we have been tremendously lucky to have had these experiences, magical plants can be found in the simplest of places.  The smell of Daphne at your front door, the fat fluffy buds of magnolias about to burst forth, tiny clover leaves in a nature strip, trees and grasses arching this way and that on a windy day, herbs growing in a pot on your grandmother’s window sill, bindii preparing to set its spiky teeth in anticipation of bare feet in summer.  Plants of all shapes, sizes, scents and uses thrive in disused lots, on building sites, in the crack of a wall.  They are literally everywhere – we just need to encourage our children to look up, down, all around and relish the experience.

As a child, did you have a favourite plant?  I’d love to hear about it…



  1. says

    Ruth you reminded me of the same memory, I still have a penchant for butter over margerine! My favourites have always been the flowers you find in a Cornish hedgerow; primroses, celandines, pink campions, cow parsley and bluebells. Oh, and my brother is a daffodil farmer so I’m pretty fond of those too :)

  2. says

    What a magnificent post – such beautiful images and quotes from your children that I almost felt like I was there with you. I will make sure that my children “look up, down, all around and relish the experience”. I think this is such a great quote Iwill have to pass it on.

  3. Jo Skehan says

    Loved the photos Caro as always. Gardening is a passion of mine and it’s sad to see children who don’t have a clue what there is around them because they have never been guided to look.
    My favourite memory of a plant’s perfume from childhood is the geranium. Every afternoon in summer on the farm, my Gran would make all us kids (about 9 or 10 of us all, cousins, siblings, friends) rest in the deep canvas deck chairs Grandfather had made, out on the huge front veranda where we could catch the soft breezes floating up from the creek. We all would drift off into a snooze, with the sweet perfume of geranium growing across the front of the house and creeping through the veranda railings. Ah, bliss. A memory I will always cherish. xx

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