mini gardeners

inspiring gardening projects for children


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Have you ever …… dissected a daffodil?

issecting a daffodil flower

Pulling flowers apart is the sort of behaviour that’s usually frowned upon. But this time it’s for a good cause; learning a little bit about flower anatomy. You don’t need to sacrifice a daffodil in its prime either, one slightly past its best works just fine. And there are no tools required apart from your own hands – we managed to tear this flower apart without scissors or knives.

Start by locating the spathe – it’s a bit like a brown paper bag just under the flower:

daffodil dissection - the spathe

The spathe protects the flower bud. It splits as the petals grow and emerge, as illustrated below:

daffodil petals emerging from the spathe

Remove the spathe, then take a good look at the petals:

daffodil petals

Our daffodil had 6 petals. When you’ve removed the petals you should be left with the cup or corona:

daffodil corona

Rip the corona lengthways then peel it away from the flower stem.  A little bit of pollen may be released as you do this.

dissecting a daffodil

Then you can remove six stamens (the male part of the flower’s reproductive system). Each stamen consists of an anther which contains the pollen grains, supported by a stalk called a filament.

daffodil dissection, showing stamens

This should leave you with the female reproductive parts; collectively known as the pistil (or carpel).

daffodil pistil, showing stigma, style & ovary

The stigma receives the pollen and a pollen tube grows down the style so that the ovules (egg cells) inside the ovary can be fertilised.

It’s fairly easy to use a thumbnail to prise the ovary apart, as in the picture above.

If all that has whetted your appetite, this link has a comprehensive summary of the structure and function of flowers.

And one final note, always supervise children when dissecting daffodil flowers. Although the daffodil is a common flower, all parts of the plant can cause illness if eaten.

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Don’t Try This at Home

chilli 'Etna"

I helped out at my daughter’s cub group last week. It all sounded easy enough, supervising a table of cubs making model aeroplanes.  Until, that is, they dropped the bombshell that the cubs would be cutting bits of balsa wood with a scalpel. Yes, a scalpel.

And although I felt like I’d aged several years by the end of the evening (not helped by the fact that I was supervising a table of raucous boys with no regard for personal safety), everyone managed to make it to the end injury-free.

Before that evening, I’d been hesitating about whether to mention the fact that we’ve been stringing chilli peppers at home, ready for drying.  Hesitating because stringing hot chillies with a sharp needle doesn’t sound the most child-friendly project.  But after spending an evening playing with sharp knives, it seems positively tame in comparison. So here goes…

chilli peppers ready for drying

We harvested most of our chilli peppers a week or so ago and my daughters have been busy stringing them ready for drying and, eventually, making our own chilli powder.

We’ve grown a few different chillies this year and our biggest harvest by a long way was ‘Demon Red’.  We had six plants, all well-behaved and compact, and although the individual chillies are fairly small, the yields per plant are high.  It’s a hot little chilli, as the name suggests, so stringing them together for drying is definitely a job for older children (I can report that 9 and 12 year olds coped with it well).

A couple of tips to ensure your chillies don’t slip off the thread:

harvest chillies with a small piece of stem

and

stringing chillies for drying

And obviously, don’t forget to wash your hands as soon as you’ve finished handling the chillies 🙂

Time for a haircut

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topiary rabbittopiary rabbit

You know how it is……. things get busy , you don’t have your hair cut for a while. Then you can’t do a thing with it and every day becomes a Bad Hair Day.

After a quick trim this afternoon our topiary rabbit can now hold his head up high and Bad Hair Days are a thing of the past.

We also gave him a long overdue feed. He’s about 3 years old and the plant inside the frame – box (Buxus sempervirens) – is filling out nicely.

A lot less trouble than a real rabbit 🙂

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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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