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Fantasizing About Spring: A Garden Built For A Child

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fantastic ideas

Fantastic ideas

Dear Casual Gardener,

I have been so inspired by your column and blog! I have decided I am going to create a garden in the Spring for my mentally handicapped son. He is 8 years old and really enjoys bright colors and a stimulating environment.

Can you give me some help and advice in creating a garden for him?


Needs Help in Naperville

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Dear Needs Help,

Thanks for the positive words – I have some fantastic ideas for you and anyone else who is interested in creating a stimulating children’s garden.

Children love to touch, smell, and see plants. Have your son help plant the plants. Digging in the dirt is one of the favorite activities for my daughter. Even if her attention wanders, she will be pulled back in if I find a worm or other little creature in the soil to share with her. She loves to help me plant, then monitors the plants she has Lambs Ear and a White Petuniataken care of very carefully all through the summer – they are her “babies” after all.

One of my favorite gardens of all time is the “Sensory Garden” at the Chicago Botanical Gardens. To learn more about the Sensory Garden, please go to to view the sensory garden information. I would use their garden as a model to get started – here is a link to their sensory garden guide – PDF Guide. This garden is filled with bright colors and touchable plants in raised beds to bring them closer to your nose and reach. The whole concept is to smell, hear, see and feel the garden.

There are many varieties of plants that can contribute to a stimulating garden:

Grasses of all varieties wave in the wind and sound delightful in the summer breeze;

Bright annuals add exciting color and pattern to the garden;

Lamb’s Ear, Strawflower, Hen & Chicks and Coneflower are fun to touch;

For interesting scent, add plants like Catmint, Scented Geranium and low-maintenance roses.

Stimulating color combinations are also a plus for this style of gardening. My favorite color combination is purple and yellow. Additional exciting color combinations include Hot Pink and White, Salmon and Violet, or Orange and Red.

Good Luck with your garden and try to think “environmentally friendly” – get as many plants which are drought tolerant as possible to help reduce your water usage, and consider the benefits of adding plants which attract wildlife and butterflies.

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  1. I have been thinking about gardening with children a lot lately as I have been spending a lot of time with a very hyperactive 6 year old boy. It seems like such a good way to help children understand their environment and focus! It also helps them to chill out a little bit. I like the idea of getting the child excited about attracting butterflies. i also would recommend having something edible, green beans are fun because you have to search for them, like finding treasures. Great post.

  2. Thanks for your comment Eve! Absolutely – it's a fantastic way to have kids focus and BREATHE. Something we often forget to do in today's world.

    Have a lovely day!


  3. I have been a hands on person establishing a childrens garden in our small town. It was constructed with private donations and donated labor. That gives everyone a feeling of ownership. We do classes for all ages. My daughter is a blogger and has links to this garden. It was named outstanding project of the year for our state. Her blog is You might garner some ideas from this.

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