Try planting a favourite food garden (growing all the ingredients for pizza in a wedge-shaped garden, for example) or one with edible flowers. Colour-crazy kids might like to research and create a monocoloured or rainbow bed. A "scratch and sniff" bed of scented herbs, a medieval knot or a dried flower garden are other ideas that Karen Michaud of Country Lane Herbs suggests, along with a zoo garden (plants with animal or insect names). Plant cultivars with great names or wild shapes and colours. 'Thumbelina' carrots, 'Rainbow Lights' chard and 'Easter Egg' radishes are all super plants for kids, along with ornamentals such as crested cockscomb (also known as fuzzy neon brains). Try purple beans (which magically turn green when cooked), purple carrots or 'Patty Pan' squash, which look like little flying saucers as they mature. If you have the space, pumpkins are de rigueur. Older children can also experiment with different cultivars-try a blindfolded taste test with two or three tomato varieties, and chart rates of growth and overall production in a garden journal for future reference.
There are many excellent programs across the country to help introduce children to gardening. Check local libraries, museums, or community or garden centres for details. Here is a sampling:
Toronto: The Teaching Garden at Edwards Gardens was created to teach children ages three to 12 years how to care for their environment in a garden setting. There are school programs in spring and fall, and several summer day camps, including the Green Thumb Camp, where eight- to 10-year-olds help plant a pizza garden and harvest vegetables for local food banks. July 22 to 25, $160 non-members; $145 members. The Civic Garden Centre at Edwards Gardens, 777 Lawrence Ave. E., North York, Ont. M3C 1P2; 416/397-1340;
Burlington, Ontario: Now in its 56th year, the children's gardening program at Royal Botanical Gardens greens the thumbs of a new crop of children each year. Contact Nancy Lee-Colibaba at 905/527-1158, ext. 510.
Uxbridge, Ontario: SLUGS (Special Little Uxbridge Gardeners) is a free junior horticulture club (for kids 12 and under) sponsored by Goodwood Gardens. SLUGS, 31 Bolton Dr., Uxbridge, Ont. L9P 1A3; 905/852-9643. E-mail;
Vancouver: VanDusen Botanical Garden's family programs offer children and adults opportunities to learn about plants and nature. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Family Adventures: free for members or with garden admission. Family Workshops: members $5 per participant; non-members $5 per participant plus admission. VanDusen Botanical Garden, 5251 Oak St., Vancouver, B.C. V6M 4H1; 604/878-5860;
Montreal: Montreal Botanical Garden - Youth Gardens, 514/872-0956;