Plant and Learn at Children's Gardening Programs

Round up the kids, and experience the outdoors in a new way at botanical gardens throughout the South.
Cassandra M. Vanhooser

In 2006, pint-size visitors helped plant and harvest 500 pounds of vegetables, which were donated to a local food bank.

More than just flowers grow at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia. When adults and kids visit the new Children's Garden, their understanding of the natural world increases, too, and that's a wonderful thing to watch.

Play and Learn
All around the 2-acre plot, children explore with abandon. Some climb the low-hanging limbs of a mulberry tree. Others make believe that they're living in an international village. Still others help harvest vegetables. Almost everyone makes at least one trip to the top of the handicap-accessible tree house.

"A lot of kids these days don't have the opportunity to play outside," says education manager Randee Humphrey. "It's important for them to make a connection with the natural world so that as adults they can make informed decisions about the environment."

 

See, Touch, Understand
"Don't touch!" is something you rarely hear in this garden. A small army of staff and volunteers encourages the shorter set to observe, touch, and smell as many plants as possible. There are also places to play in sand, dig in dirt, and splash through water.

Youngsters squeal with delight when they discover earthworms squirming in the dirt they've been digging. A volunteer lays a plump specimen in one child's outstretched hand, assuring her that worms don't bite. "It tickles," she says, giggling.

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden: 1800 Lakeside Avenue, Richmond, VA 23228; www.lewisginter.org or (804) 262-9887.

Cultivating Young Minds
Find more children's gardens in bloom across the region.

American Horticultural Society: 7931 East Boulevard Drive, Alexandria, VA 22308; www.ahs.org or (703) 768-5700. Some 13 themed plots make up the Children's Garden at River Farm.

Atlanta Botanical Garden: 1345 Piedmont Avenue NE., Atlanta, GA 30309; www.atlantabotanicalgarden.org or (404) 876-5859. Kids learn how butterflies become caterpillars.

Huntsville Botanical Garden: 4747 Bob Wallace Avenue, Huntsville, AL 35805; www.hsvbg.org or (256) 830-4447. Themed areas include a Space Garden with a real missile.

Longwood Gardens: 1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square, PA 19348; www.longwoodgardens.org or (610) 388-1000. The Bee-aMazed Children's Garden teaches kids about honeybees. Longwood unveils an Indoor Children's Garden later this year.

Missouri Botanical Garden: 4344 Shaw Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63110; www.mobot.org or (314) 577-9400. You'll find figures from Missouri's history in the Doris I. Schnuck Children's Garden.

Norfolk Botanical Garden: 6700 Azalea Garden Road, Norfolk, VA 23518; www.norfolkbotanicalgarden.org or (757) 441-5830. The 3-acre garden called World of Wonders provides a window to the world for kids.

Winterthur Museum & Country Estate: Winterthur, DE 19735; www.winterthur.org or 1-800-448-3883. Children adore Enchanted Woods, a fairy tale garden with a Troll Bridge, Tulip Tree House, and Fairy Flower Labyrinth.

"Fun in the Garden" is from the August 2007 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.