Friday, 28 September 2012

Floral Friday: Edible Flowers - Calendula

Calendula officinalis

Calendula officinalis is one of my top ten flower plants to grow with children.  Everyone thinks of a sunflower as a children’s flower.  The pot or English Marigold may not grow so tall, but it matches the sunflower’s beauty, petal pattern and gorgeous orange and yellow colours.

Marigold - child friendly plant

Its family-friendly characteristics include:-

  • It is an annual & easy to grow from seed.

  • It will self- seed.

  • It is bee friendly.

  • The plant will keep flowering from June/July to the first frosts (though you will need to keep deadheading for this to occur).

  • It has edible flowers – use in salads or to dye rice.

You do not see the grown flowers very often in garden centres so you will need to grow from seed. There is a wide variety of orange to yellow flowers available at varying heights.

You can germinate in pots or sow direct into the ground once the soil begins to warms up in March /April.

Do not confuse with French Marigolds Tagetes Patula which are not edible.

Marigolds on edge of vegetable bed

It is also used as a companion plant particularly for certain vegetables. It is therefore often a favourite on the allotment.  It repels whitefly from tomatoes and can lure aphids away from beans. It also attracts beneficial insects, including ladybirds, lacewings and hoverflies, all which prey on aphids.  Wish my vegetable plot looked like the one above.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Floral Friday: Edible Flowers - Courgette Flowers

Today I am introducing Floral Friday. A regular post every Friday on flowering plants to grow with your kids, and to have in your garden. All the plants featured will be ‘family friendly’. By this I mean they will either:-

  • Grow easily and be a ‘good doer’.
  • May self –seed. 
  • Will have a point of interest e.g. interesting smell or edible. 
  • Not too much maintenance. 
  • Long flowering. 
  • Will withstand a couple of hit by a football. 
  • Not too invasive.

I will feature not just flowers from herbaceous plants, but also from shrubs, tree and vegetables. I hope the regular feature will help to inspire you and your family to grow more whilst also growing your kids.

Courgette Seedling
To start us off today, I have chosen an edible flower from the courgette plant.
This is such an easy plant to grow from its lovely large seeds. If you haven’t grown courgette with kids before and you have space in a vegetable plot for them, then they are well worth trying. The deep yellow flowers are one of the most beautiful of all the vegetable flowers. They don't last long as they need to turn into that courgette. Watching them daily is an easy way for a child to see how a flower turns into a vegetable.
Courgette Flower

Deep Fried Courgettes

And, of course, if you don’t want all the numerous courgettes that one plant is likely to produce you can always eat the flower. They are really yummy deep fried in batter.

I have more on growing courgettes with children on my kidsinthegarden site.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012


Planting spring bulbs must be one of the easiest kids gardening activities. Many do deserve the label ‘easy grow’. All you need is a trowel, bare patch of soil and bulbs. There are loads of easy grow bulbs. Simply either follow the instructions on the packet or from your supplier. If planting direct into the ground a marker ( made by your kids ) reminding you of their location will mean you may not disturb them.

September is definitely the month for buying and planting the majority of bulbs that will flower the following spring. This year I have already bought mine for planting this year, which meant I had a wide choice at the garden centre.

Narcissus 'Sealing Wax' Bulbs

I choose 40  Narcissus 'Sealing Wax' bulbs which are described as great for inexperienced gardeners and for those that like low maintenance gardens.  I will report back in the spring.

Also in the shopping basket was an old favourite and, perhaps the most popular narcissus of all, Tete a Tete.  I always plant these in pots, which can then be brought close to the house or indoors when flowering. So kids can always easily see what has been grown.  They grow to about 15 cm.  I always plant all of my bulbs slightly closer than the instructions and these I plant always much closer together to make a compact display.

Allium Bulbs
My final item was a selection of allium bulbs. I have not always had a great deal of success with alliums. They are so spectacular and majestic in the border, with such lovely seed heads I am trying again this year.

When planting any bulbs with your children I would always get them to wash their hands after. You may also need to manage expectations. Those spring months are a long way ahead. I always mention to my son that they will flower about the same time as his cousin’s birthday. Connecting their flowering time to mothers’ day may also work.

Another easy grow bulb are grape hyacinths Muscari. You may also remember as a child growing hyacinths in a glass container showing all the lovely white roots.

So if you are wondering what to do in the garden with the children this weekend planting bulbs is your answer. You and your family will be really pleased with your efforts next Spring. Hold out with tulip bulbs though until late October.  They are best planted later in Autumn.

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