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The Moonlight Garden
The Water Garden
The Rock Garden
The Wild Flower Garden
The Court Of The Queen Of Flowers
The Children's Garden
The Bulb Garden
The Indoor Garden
The Garden That Faces Four Ways
What Can Be Done With Half An Acre
Old And New Flowers For The Garden
Where Are And Nature Meet
Our Birds And Our Gardens
The Flower Spectrum
Garden Friends And Foes
Trees And Tree Planting
Window Box Gardening
Flowers For Cutting
The More Common Garden Flowers And How To Grow Them
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Whether it is because the little people are closer to nature than their elders, or for some other reason, it is true that every child loves a garden. To be sure his interest sometimes is too apt to take the form of pulling up everything "to see how it is getting on," but even so, the interest is a real one, and there is every reason why it should be encouraged, and why children should not be hindered in following a pursuit which they find no less absorbing than do their parents.
Of course the flowers for the children's garden should be those which do not require too much time to give results, as well as of varieties which will bear considerable hard treatment, if they be neglected from time to time. Also they should be free-blooming, for in this case results are the thing most sought for, and flowers which may be lavishly plucked, not an effective display of plants, are the desideratum.
Without turning this chapter into a kindergarten treatise, there is one means by which the garden of this kind may be as little as possible despoiled by the curiosity which leads every normal intelligent child to desire to see "how the wheels go round." Most of us have experimented with "cotton gardens" in our youth; and some such plan, carried out in connection with the children's garden, will save the seedlings from destruction, as well as prove instructive to the little owner.
The method is a simple one. In a small bowl of water a sheet of cotton should be spread; and upon this, after it is patted down and made thoroughly damp, seeds of the same flowers as those which are to be sown in the outdoors garden should be scattered-only, of course, two or three of a kind. Then if another piece of cotton be spread over them and the bowl put into a warm place, the seeds will sprout and may be examined from time to time. They should be carefully kept moist and wet. By this means seed will not be pulled up in the garden "to see how it is getting on," for its progress may be viewed at any time by observation of that in the bowl; and even should one or two plantlets be destroyed, their similarity with those under observation will prevent such destruction on a large scale. By the time the "cotton garden" seeds have grown large enough to require more nourishment than they can obtain under the conditions in which they have, so far, been grown, their duplicates outside will be above the ground, and their practical usefulness will be at an end. They may, however, be transplanted with care into the ordinary garden, where their progress will, of course, follow that of normally grown plants.
Of seeds which are to be planted in the children's garden, annuals especially should be included. There are very few perennials which bloom during their first season, and those which do, do so only at the cost of early planting and nursing, and even under these conditions do not flower lavishly. Haste and plenty of bloom, as has been said, are the chief requisites for the children's garden. And to wait a year for results from perennials is beyond the patience of even the most serious minded of children. So let annuals be the order of the day.
Among the first of the blossons to be included should be the nasturtium, which blooms fairly soon from seed, and which combines the advantages of being practically indestructible and of furnishing a gay mass of bright color. For these reasons, too, zinnias especially commend themselves for a foremost place upon the list. Sweet alyssum and candytuft both bloom early-the white variety of the latter is by f ar the better of the two for this purpose, as it is the more sturdy-and the ageratum grows quickly and will be a mass of bloom, once started, for the entire summer. Balsams are strong and can stand almost any treatment, while their seed pods are always especially alluring to the little people, because of the delightful way in which they may be made to pop and scatter their contents over the surrounding territory.
The verbena is not a good plant for the children's garden, because of the length of time it takes to germinate. Lilies, tulips and other bulb plants are open to the same objection as perennials, since they must be planted the fall before they are to bloom, and since cutting in both cases harms the bulb somewhat, and in the children's garden they will certainly be cut. Roses, too, are unlikely to thrive under the lack of expert treatment which they will receive, while the polsonous concoctions necessary to keep them at their best render them unfit for a place in the children's garden. Although, as a perennial, it is unsuited to this use, especial warning must here be given again against the possible use of the monkshood here, as the root of this is extremely poisonous. Returning to annuals, marigolds, both African and French, give a bright dash of color, while the sunflower germinates soon, attracts birds, and may be seen to progress almost indefinitely.
Of course annuals which must be started in the house to be brought to bloom in season are inappropriate for the children's garden. Stock, wallflowers, and other such are therefore taboo, unless one or two be bought in pots and set out-a course which will make the children's garden bright with bloom at once, and which may relieve the tedium of waiting for the appearance of the seed. Should this be done, a bright geranium or a fuchsia or two will be a welcome addition, and by no means should a few pansies be forgotten-not the viola, but the real old-fashioned pansy, the bright faces of which are a constant source of delight to little people, and which bloom all the better for the extensive cutting to which they will be subjected. The sweet pea, the flower which, next to the pansy, thrives under constant plucking, is inadmissible, because of the care required in its culture. For this reason the poppy, too, is omitted, as is the frilled petunia; but the single petunia, the portulaca, the nicotiana, will more than make up for their absence.
A few vegetables will not be out of place in the children's garden. Beets, carrots and radishes are easy to grow, and the pulling of them from the ground is a perennial source of pleasure. There is no greater source of pride to the boy or girl than to have something of "his own" served at the table, and a few of any one of these vegetables will be almost sure to turn out successfully. Chard is easy to grow, but takes up too much room for a small garden. Parsley grows too slowly, and peas and beans require too much care. But these which have been mentioned may be satisfactorily depended upon, while if Mother will "put up" a glass or two of carrot marmalade, the garden will be doubly remembered during the winter and looked forward to with renewed anticipation the succeeding spring.
Of course, as time goes on, other plants may be added to the children's garden. As the skill of the little gardeners increases, plants which originally could not have prospered may be grown with hopes of success. And not only are the principles of gardening being learned, but exercise in the open, a new interest, application-these, and many ..other elements, more adapted to the consideration of the "uplifter" than of the gardener, come into play. And apart from these more serious reflections, the garden is stimulating to the imagination-for which of us has not mused over the wonders of nature, as they gradually unfold themselves among our flowers, and what child, in seeing them, is not tempted to believe in the fairies, with Peter Pan?
Speaking of fairies in the children's garden-and what children's garden would be complete without them?-let me go far enough a-field to tell a true story of their work. When I was myself a very little girl, my grandfather had a tiny corner of his own garden set apart into a garden for me. All the gay, bright little blossoms which children love were there, all a-bloom when I first saw them, and during one entire summer the little bed where they were planted was my pride and my delight.
The next spring my grandfather died, and in the stress of more important things, no thought was given to the little garden. But when, the following summer, I ran down to see where it had been, unless one believes with Peter Pan, how can the wonder be accounted for? For where, the year before, my pansies, marigolds and asters had danced and bloomed, was a solid sheet of flowers of a kind which, as far as could be learned, had never been grown by my grandfather nor by any of his neighbors-the cloudy, pale-blue masses of the forgetme-not!