During all the springs and summers when my granddaughter has been visiting me, I always let her pick any flower she wants. She usually asks, now, if she can take flowers home to her mama. This passion for flowers has taken place since her toddler years where she indiscriminately picked dandelions, daffodils, or anything else with a bloom, usually without the stems.
I’ve heard there are gardeners who have heart attacks if a child picks some flowers from their yard, and I always wonder what they are thinking. For me, the most precious thing in my garden is my granddaughter. How will she ever learn to love gardening if I yell at her every time she plucks some stem? Every year she is a different child, one that will not reappear, but those flowers will hopefully bloom the same every year for years to come. I’d much rather sacrifice some blossoms and see the pleasure on her face than see the flowers fade in my garden. She visited again this weekend, and again, took home a bouquet for her mom.
She loves the lavender blue blossoms on the bed of phlox subulata that substitutes for lawn here, telling me as she runs her hand over the surface of flowers, “It feels soft enough to sleep on, Grandma!” Often she asks questions about what each flower is, and closely inspects all aspects of each plant. She has also learned from her mistakes and is very careful of where she steps in the garden, trying not to tread on small plants. She wants to help plant the peas, pick the lettuce, and make chocolate chip cookies. Usually the impulse lasts about fifteen minutes, but that is normal in children—they have so much else to discover.
Patience and a willingness to let a little damage happen in the garden is all it takes to teach children to love the natural world. This visit, I led her and a few neighbor boys on a nature walk, introducing them to the names of some of the wild plants. Hopefully I’ve planted some future gardener seeds. What better heritage is there to pass on?