May Queen

“The earth laughs in flowers.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson


Spending our first spring in our new (old) home has transformed my family’s opinion of the backyard from adequate to enchanting. Through the kitchen window, I can see a cherry tree spilling over with pink blossoms, several flowering dogwoods, and a bank of lilacs against the fence. Even the grass is spangled with violets.
Spring flowers invite nature play. On a recent afternoon, my youngest daughter tended a makeshift kitchen on a block of wood nestled between flowering azaleas, while my oldest posed for the camera with a crown of ivy and cherry blossoms. My five-year-old son took a more manly approach to spring, industriously digging what we’ve dubbed “the hole to China” and later delighting in a spring rain that added mud to the mix.

One day, in fine Martha Steward mode, I baked up a round of shortbread and dusted the cookies with powdered sugar and violets. Many flowers are edible, provided they haven’t been treated with pesticide. What child wouldn’t be intrigued by nasturtiums sprinkled on a salad or rose petals floating in a glass of pink lemonade?            

To ensure a summer-long supply of flowers, plant seeds now. With very young students lending a hand in Adkins Arboretum’s Funshine Garden, I’ve adopted a relaxed approach to planting that I’ve dubbed the “sprinkle seed” method. After preparing a bed or container with loose soil, children are given a handful of seeds to sprinkle across the surface, followed by another sprinkle of soil. This method works best for seeds that have a very shallow planting depth (1/8 inch) and that look nice in a jumble.

 When not gardening, my students love to hunt the woods for spring ephemerals, those flowers that bloom for just a few weeks in early spring before the forest canopy leafs out. Plan your visit soon. May is here, and the earth rings with laughter.

by Jenny Houghton
Youth Program Coordinator


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