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Plants for kids gardens, any ideas?

 
Antonio Scotti
Posts: 9
Location: Spain
forest garden fungi urban
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Hi,
I am not sure whether this is the right forum for this question. In case it's not please redirect me to the most appropriate one.

I am trying to set up a list of Mediterranean plants that can be easily and safely used in a small kids school setting garden play area, such as in a kindergarten or a primary school.
The plants that I'd like to include need to have some special characteristics to be acceptable in such a setting.
First of all they need to be safe for the kids, which means no part of the plant should be toxic, nor should they bear small fruit (or big seeds) that the kids may try to swallow. I guess also thornless varieties might be in order.
Also other plants that are known to produce skin reactions, should not be in this list. Of course any plant might produce unexpected allergies to some people, I guess that is unavoidable, but as far as I stick with those that are known for not producing this kind of problems I can be on the safe side. Do you think there may be other types of requirements that are worth taking into account?
Of course I am looking for plants that require minimal maintenance, since most school staff, especially teachers are usually overloaded with work, and might not be in a position to take big care of the plants (even though
they want them....) and be drought hardy.
If you can add more plants to the list I already created (below) that would be a nice resource for other people with similar interests, I reckon:

Aloysia citriodora
Allium ursinum
Calendula officinalis
Fragaria vesca
Ginesta cinerea
Lavandula stoecha
Lavandula  dentada
Lippia nodiflora
Malva spp
Lycium barbarum
Origanum majorana
Origanum vulgare
Passiflora incarnata
Phlomis fruticosa
Phlomis lanata
Potentilla anserina
Rubus idaeus (has thorns but may be thornless varieties can be found)
Ribes rubrum (same as above)
Rubus nepalensis
Saponaria officinalis
Symphitum officinalis x uplandicum (toxic if eaten in large quantities)
Melissa officinalis
Rosmarinus prostratus
Rosmarinus officinalis
Salvia fruticosa
Salvia elegans
Salvia microphylla
Vetiveria zizanoides
Pelargonium crispum
Cistus albidus

I didnt't include (fruit) trees, because I reckon they do not constitute a big challenge, since small kids can't easily reach the fruit (unless they have fallen on the ground...oops!)...and there are may trees that are not toxic, etc.

So, any ideas/additions are welcome
Cheers
 
Casie Becker
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Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
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Thyme varieties are also nice. I would particularly recommend lemon thyme (Thymus citroidus) because it has a sweet lemon scent that I think would appeal to children. It actually smells very similar to the first item on your list.  Bearded iris (iris germanica) can survive virtually anything without care, except perhaps too much water. If sweet almond verbena (Aloysia virgata) is available, it's becoming a staple of Texas gardens for butterflies and bees. One plant can fill a garden with the scent. Completely unscented but covered in small flowers that are usually covered in small butterflies and many species of bee in my garden is the Matchstick plant (Phyla nodiflora). It's low care enough that some people grow it as a lawn.
 
Angelika Maier
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Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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Some thoughts: what do kids and teachers do with these plants? Would they really make soap with saponaria? What would they do with all these lavenders?
Fruit trees should be incuded! For me it is too much children packing into cotton wool. While I would not include toxic plants because of liability issues to exclude a plant
only because it might cause a rash in some people or say gooseberries because they have thorns is a bit over the top for my taste.
There is as well a difference between toxic and toxic deadly nightshade is very toxic while you have to eat a lot of rhubarb leaves to die (an kids are unlikely to eat that many raw greens)
I would go the other way. Does the school have a canteen or a kitchen? Are parents involved? With apples when they ripen in the summer holidays and no one is around it causes only mess.
While if they ripen during school days it is a good  addition for kids. Either you want plants kids can eat raw. Or you want plants kids can learn something, cooking or soapmaking or dye wool.
Or tea plants, but this depends wheather there is a kettle and the kids can make their tea. Each plant has basically a use or even a school prokect linked to it.
 
Carl Trotz
Posts: 14
Location: Upstate New York
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Kids always seem to enjoy the fuzzy leaves of lamb's-ears (Stachys byzantina).  It's not native to the Mediterranean, but it does do well in hot, dry areas.  It's one of the lowest-maintenance ornamental perennials I know of.
 
David Livingston
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Pumpkins and caugettes as they are edible and impossible to  over water.
Carrots beetroot both can be eaten after a short while
Beans and peas
Cabbages

David
 
Antonio Scotti
Posts: 9
Location: Spain
forest garden fungi urban
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Angelika Maier wrote:Some thoughts: what do kids and teachers do with these plants? Would they really make soap with saponaria? What would they do with all these lavenders?
Fruit trees should be incuded! For me it is too much children packing into cotton wool. While I would not include toxic plants because of liability issues to exclude a plant
only because it might cause a rash in some people or say gooseberries because they have thorns is a bit over the top for my taste.
There is as well a difference between toxic and toxic deadly nightshade is very toxic while you have to eat a lot of rhubarb leaves to die (an kids are unlikely to eat that many raw greens)
I would go the other way. Does the school have a canteen or a kitchen? Are parents involved? With apples when they ripen in the summer holidays and no one is around it causes only mess.
While if they ripen during school days it is a good  addition for kids. Either you want plants kids can eat raw. Or you want plants kids can learn something, cooking or soapmaking or dye wool.
Or tea plants, but this depends wheather there is a kettle and the kids can make their tea. Each plant has basically a use or even a school prokect linked to it.


Hi Angelika
many thanks for your thoughts.
Well the idea is to collect enough plants (in this list) so to have a broad palette to choose from.
So that the plants could be used for purposes like making soap if the teachers would like to add that feature to their garden of course.

Why lavenders? They are not very many, just two varieties of them. Well lavenders are native plants here (Eastern Spain) and they are very aromatic, so they could be used say for a sensory garden, together with other plants.
I am actually considering including Rubus Idaeus and Ribes rubrum into the list as well, since their thorns may actually not be all that problematic.
So far I have only been involved with a couple of schools that only cater for very small children, and only want to have more green outside, and I guess they do not do those activities like the ones you suggest, but if they see the possibilities they might change their mind especially with older kids in the age range of 4-5 yo.
After reading your reply I am starting to consider to widen the plant info to suggest activities they could actually do with them.
And trees of course, .....just didn't include them because I don't think I have any difficulty in figuring out which ones to use, if needed.

I agree about the example you made about rhubarb, that's why I included comfrey. Didn't include rhubarb because I don't think it grows well this area of the world unless a very specific microclimate could be found.
Some of the plants in the list, may serve as ground covers (like saponaria or fragaria vesca) other as climbers and others as shrubs in a manner similar to how forest gardens are designed, some may be useful for situation where there is shade, etc...in some school may be a little forest garden might be in order...but for small children the constraints mentioned above need to be given attention.

Many thanks also to Carl and Casie for their inputs so far!
So this seems to be the right forum for this question after all
Regards to all

 
Antonio Scotti
Posts: 9
Location: Spain
forest garden fungi urban
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David Livingston wrote:Pumpkins and caugettes as they are edible and impossible to  over water.
Carrots beetroot both can be eaten after a short while
Beans and peas
Cabbages

David

Thanks David, right now I was mainly focused on perennials especially because those who approached me made clear they did not have enough time available to stay after the plants very much
Nevertheless, in other schools they might be interested in taking a more active role. So these plants might come handy to consider.
 
Angelika Maier
Posts: 709
Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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Lavenders could be used for lavender oil or soapmaking. I don't know what you intend with your whole list, but I find it interesting to link some school projects to it.
Like cabbage and kraut, kale and chips....
 
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