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Children’s Garden Offers Something For Everyone


Adirondack chair
An Adirondack chair for the younger set rests beside a bumble bee topiary

A plot that was once part of the vegetable and cutting gardens for the Pell summer home, and before that a soldier’s garden that helped feed 18th-century troops, is now utilized as our Children’s Garden. This 50×50 garden includes flowing internal pathways, topiaries, kid-sized chairs and thematic plantings to help children and adults learn more about plants and nature. Initially the garden consisted of strictly annuals and vegetables, but over time, perennials have been incorporated into the scheme to create focal points and structure. I really enjoy planning and planting this garden each season.


Cutleaf coneflower
Rudbeckia nitida or cutleaf coneflower grows to eight feet in the Children’s Garden

This year’s theme areas include the popular Sunflower House and Salsa Spot, along with the Flying Friends Area, row crops of everlasting flowers suitable for drying, a White Night display, and a collection of plants with interesting green flowers or foliage. I like to use large, showy specimens to visually separate areas of the garden such as broom corn, Mexican sunflower (Tithonia), spider flower (Cleome), sunflowers, and the huge Rudbeckia nitida or cutleaf coneflower. Texture and color play important roles in each garden area. Some of my favorites in the texture department include Lacinato “dinosaur” kale, dill and fennel, cannas, slender grasses, borage and various amaranths. Vegetables are so easy to incorporate into flower plantings (or flowers into vegetable plantings!) and the results are beautiful and fruitful!

Ornaments and accessories add visual appeal and are great because they can be moved around the garden year to year. Sometimes a fun garden accent can be found among things already on hand. Here are some ideas from our gardens. For climbing beans, peas, and flowering vines consider an old wooden ladder, 3-pole teepees made of saplings, or old wooden or wire fence sections. Pathways can be constructed of mulch or bark chips, stepping stones, pavers (they don’t have to all match) or grass clippings. We have a stack of old slate slabs that make a great walkway. At planting time, fill a few containers of different sizes and use them to fill in spaces between your plantings. As the garden matures these containers can be shifted to a new location where a pop of color is needed. Old rakes and tool handles may be fashioned into scarecrows with the addition of burlap or old clothing. At home, these are all projects where the kids can help out and share in creating your garden.


Rustic bean teepees, scarecrows in background
Rustic bean teepees frame a view of the Three Sisters scarecrows in the garden beyond

This season a new tour explores each themed area in the Children’s Garden with a garden guide. Helpful information and fun facts will be shared on the 20-minute tour, appropriate for children and adults. Our gardens are a learning laboratory for other programs including Growing Up with Gardening: Sow, Grow & Know, and Hands-on Horticulture programs all scheduled for July and August. Nature walks for kids are also planned, exploring the trees, fields, gardens and grounds of the King’s Garden area. A complete list of King’s Garden programs can be found at

The King’s Garden opens for the season on May 25, 2013.  Join us!

Heidi Karkoski
Director of Horticulture