Dig This!

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There is a garden in every childhood,
an enchanted place where colors are brighter,
the air softer, and
the morning more fragrant than ever again.
- Elizabeth Lawrence

Those lazy, crazy days of summer are almost upon us. School is out, and the kids will have long days of freedom and fun. But too soon, we hear the plaintive whines of "There's nothing to do!" or "I've done that already!" or even worse, "I'm bored," with the emphasis on "bored."

How can you lure your child away from the easy solutions of the techno-wizardry of the TV, video games, Play-Station or the expense of shopping malls? The solution could be in your own back yard!

A garden can nurture the innate curiosity and creativity in your child or the child in you as an adult. In a medium that is hands-on and does not have to be censored, a garden can keep your child learning and curious during the summer and possibly sow the seeds of a lifelong hobby, interest, or even vocation. Theme gardens are a fun and popular way to personalize a child's special interest or to highlight similar plants and can serve as a springboard to additional garden activities. Some suggestions are:

Fairy Garden - A fairy garden is a magical place to share favorite fairy tales with your favorite child. Create a house for the fairies and other "little people" that folklore claims frequent the garden in the moonlight. Bury half a six- or eight-inch clay pot in the ground, tucked in among the flowers for a hiding place for the shy fairies who work their garden magic at night away from curious human eyes. Place a carpet of moss or soft grass inside and furnish with smooth stones and bark. A small pebble path leading to the entrance helps attract fairy guests. Plant creeping plants like ivy to cover the pot or decorate with paint or dried flowers or bark and herbs. It is whispered that fairies are particularly fond of hollyhocks, lamb's ears, forget-me-knots, lavender, thyme, violas and violets, and snapdragons.

Patriotism Garden - To celebrate patriotism, a red, white and blue garden can express your pride with red flowers such as dahlias, gladiolus, dianthus, impatiens, celosia, snapdragons, geraniums and zinnias. White flowers include choices of daisies, four-o'clocks, dahlias, geraniums, gladiolus, impatiens, poppy, snapdragons, and zinnias. Shades of blue can be found in ageratum, columbine, delphinium, morning glory, phlox, vinca, forget-me-nots, and violets and violas. Petunias, salvia, phlox, and hollyhocks are available in all three colors. Add small flags or a patriotic wind sock or garden flag for a colorful accent in the wind.

What Time is It? Garden - Let your garden tell the time during the lazy days of summer. Morning glories greet the day with their bright blossoms early in the morning. Sunflowers follow the sun with their cheery faces all day - the reason they are so named. Four-o'clocks bloom just in time for afternoon tea in the garden while moonflowers seem to glow in the evening and have a wonderful fragrance. You may even be able to watch the moonflower unfurl from bud to full blossom in just five to eight minutes. All these plants are easy to grow for a young gardener's success. Be sure to add thyme to your time garden for a fun play on words.

Animal Garden - Many plants received their common names from their resemblance or similarities to animals. Create a garden "zoo" with these plants: lamb's ear - as soft and fuzzy as the real animal; cockscomb - like a bright red rooster's comb; elephant ears - the size of Dumbo's ears; snapdragons - with blooms that can be squeezed to look like a miniature dragon's mouth opening and closing. Even the lowly dandelion received its name from the French words "dent de lion" or lion's tooth because its jagged leaves resemble the teeth of a lion. Other garden "animals" include mouse ear, tiger and spider lilies, larkspur, hens and chicks, bee balm, butterfly bush. and zebra plant. There is even a unicorn plant, which might be as difficult to find as the mythical animal.

Sense -ational Garden - "Please touch" could be the sign for this garden of herbs. Involve the senses of taste, touch, and smell with basil, chives, cilantro, sage, parsley, dill, rosemary, thyme, and mint. Herbs offer a variety of textures, tastes, and aromas in the garden, are easy to grow, and many have interesting histories and uses. For tasting experiences in the garden, children should always be supervised. Not all plant parts are safe to eat.

"A lifetime is too short to learn all that the garden has to teach."
- Suzanne Frutig Bales

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