mini gardeners

inspiring gardening projects for children


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Gardening in Miniature

Bekonscot Model Village

If you’re ever anywhere vaguely near Buckinghamshire, we’d recommend a visit to the model village of Bekonscot in Beaconsfield.

First opened to the public in 1929 and allegedly the oldest model village in the world, it’s a quaint replica of an English village from the 1930s with a lot of humour thrown in. It has everything from churches, schools, hospitals, hotels and houses to a mine, circus, harbour and even a house on fire. A model railway runs throughout and the whole model village is packed with so much detail that you keep discovering new things the second, third and fourth times round.  A good venue for birthday outings – the Queen came to visit as a child on the eve of her 8th birthday.

Bekonscot model village

And the tenuous link with gardening? Well it has immaculately kept grounds and gardens with virtually everything in scale – dwarf conifers feature quite a lot.  I’ve been asked if we could turn our entire garden into a model village, much more exciting than a lawn and a few flower beds 🙂

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A Perfumed Bank Holiday

making perfume from flower petals

It was a Bank Holiday weekend with blue skies and a fair bit of sunshine, perfect for a spot of perfume making using flower petals from the garden.

Your perfume manufacturing technique may be more sophisticated than ours; we throw some random petals in a bucket of water, bash with a large stick, leave for a week and throw away when it turns mouldy.

Next time we might try a more sophisticated approach. There are lots of instructions on the internet for making perfume using rubbing alcohol, whatever that is (I’m only familiar with the alcohol that comes in a bottle for drinking). But this Guardian article suggests a simpler improvement to our very basic technique – steeping the petals in cooling boiled water, then sieving and bottling.

Oh, and our top tip is: don’t add leaves of Helichrysum italicum (otherwise known as the curry plant) unless you particularly want to smell like an Indian restaurant.


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No children please, we’re British

As well as being a terribly British affair, the Chelsea Flower is no place for children.  Children under 5 are banned and it’s usually so crowded that you wouldn’t wish to risk having your over 5s squashed.  But there’s still plenty of inspiration at Chelsea for child-friendly family gardens.

insect house chelsea flower show 2013

This enormous insect house was constructed on the end of a shed – a great project for an ambitious school gardening club?

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Bored with carrot sticks?

Carrot sticks are a bit of a staple in our house, along with cherry tomatoes and cucumber batons.

But much as we like them all, we’re yearning for a bit of  raw veg variety. So, following last year’s success, we’re growing mangetout again.  The translation from the French is “mange” = eat and “tout” = all.  Which perfectly describes these pods which are harvested before swelling with peas, and the crunchy pods are eaten in their entirety.  All made possible because the mangetout pods have thinner walls and are much sweeter than regular pea pods.

growing mangetoutWe’re growing a heritage type of mangetout called ‘Carouby de Maussane’ which has very pretty purple flowers rather than the usual white.  In fact, it wouldn’t look out of place in a flower border.

We sowed our first seeds under cover and have just planted the seedlings out.  But you can still sow until the end of May and the soil is warm enough now to sow direct, so we may pop some extra seeds into the ground for a second crop.

The plants grow to about 1.5m tall so they need something to climb up. We’ve gone for the standard wigwam of bamboo sticks and string; not hugely attractive but functional and it’ll soon be covered anyway.


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Dogs, ducks and elephants in Ealing

Ealing 135 Spring Fair Mini Gardeners stallHave finally done it.  After two years of procrastinating about selling gardening stuff for children, I dipped a toe in the water and had a stall at the Ealing 135 Group Spring Fair yesterday.  Spent the afternoon chatting to people about gardening (what’s not to love?) and lots of dog, duck and elephant watering cans have found happy homes in sunny Ealing.  It’s a big learning curve and my head is buzzing with ideas for how to do it so much better next time.  But right now I need to turn my attention to the fact that our house looks like a war zone and nobody has any clean clothes to wear because I’ve done nothing else for the past week.


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The Marge Simpson of the Garden

muscari latifolium

muscari latifolium

I first spotted this grape hyacinth at Kew Gardens last year and had to have a go at growing it.

Like most grape hyacinths, the flower resembles an upside down bunch of grapes. But the crowning glory for this one is the tufty light blue top. No surprise then that it’s been described as ‘the Marge Simpson of the garden‘.

We planted the bulbs last autumn in a small terracotta pot and left them outside over the winter. And we’ve been rewarded with a fabulous display of tufty spring flowers for the past couple of weeks.

They’re easy to grow provided they have a free-draining soil (hence the reason for planting in pots rather than directly into our heavy clay borders) and they have that quirky touch that children love.