mini gardeners

inspiring gardening projects for children

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Lamb’s Ears

Lamb's Ears (Stachys byzantina)

Lamb’s Ears (Stachys byzantina)

Photographs don’t do this plant justice.

Brush your fingers along one of the thick, felty leaves and it’s as though you’re stroking a lamb’s ear, hence the name.

It’s a wonderfully tactile plant for a children’s garden and widely available.  Easy to grow provided it has a sunny spot and soil that doesn’t get waterlogged in winter (our soil does, so we threw a handful of gravel in the planting hole and it seems to have helped with drainage).

Lamb's ears (Stachys byzantina) detail of leaf

Place it at the front of a plant border as it’s low growing.  It produces flower spikes in summer but the flowers themselves are inconspicuous – it’s the silvery foliage that it’s grown for.  If you can find it, try the cultivar ‘Silver Carpet’ which rarely flowers, instead devoting its energy to producing those woolly leaves.

Lamb's ears (Stachys byzantina) flower spike

How to look after your plant:  Water well for the first few months after planting but, once established, it should be drought tolerant. Cut back any flower spikes when flowering has finished. It will lose most of its leaves in autumn and winter but burst into growth again the following spring.  Remove dead leaves to keep the plant tidy and prevent disease.

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Blackboard Plant Pots

blackboard plant pots

Life hasn’t been the same since we invested in a tin of blackboard paint.  It’s fabulous stuff and we’ve been painting everything in sight.  Add a box of chalk plus a damp cloth and it’s guaranteed entertainment for hours.

A few weeks ago we painted some inexpensive terracotta plant pots for the school gardening club fundraising stall.  We included a piece of chalk with each one and they all sold, making a nice profit.

This week we needed a thank you gift for a friend.  So we bought some more terracotta pots from the garden centre, painted them with blackboard and acrylic paint – brief instructions below – and planted some small alpine plants in them.  Quite pleased with the result (pictured above), in fact we were a bit reluctant to give them away…

Here’s what we did:

Step one

how to paint a plant pot with blackboard paint

Step two

how to paint a plant pot with blackboard paint

Step three

When the blackboard paint is dry, remove the masking tape. Paint the rim of the pot with a contrasting colour of acrylic paint, extending the paint just inside the pot.  Paint the pot saucer (if you have one) the same colour.  Again, two coats look best if you have the time.


Blackboard and acrylic paints can stain.  For younger children you could apply the blackboard paint while they’re sleeping and get them to paint the rim of the pot.  You can use washable paints instead of acrylic  – the finish isn’t as good but your house and clothes might thank you.  Add a layer of clear varnish to the dried washable paint if the pots are destined for outside.