While recently perusing a seed catalog for the 2009 gardening season, I noticed a garden collection for sale called, ''A Child's Garden of Wonder.''
Included in the collection are purple-podded pole beans, baby carrots, little pumpkins, ''spooktactular'' pumpkins, flamboyant French breakfast radish, Zuchetta Trombolina squash and 'Sungold' cherry tomatoes. The collection, sold by John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds from Bantam, Conn., held a total of 1,935 seeds and was less than $20.
The children's garden collection started me thinking about gardening with children. After all, what child doesn't enjoy digging in the dirt? Attention spans aren't what they used to be so it might be difficult to get a child interested in sticking a few seeds in the dirt, pouring on some water and then ... what? Waiting? Waiting is hard when you're young, and the world has so many other interesting things going on. But that is the point. While we are doing those other things, miracles are happening underground. Once the plants begin to emerge in a few days, adults, as well as children, rethink the concept of gardening. Turns out, it isn't boring at all. In fact, it is fascinating.
It turns out that many other seed companies also put together a package of seeds that are likely to be fun to grow.
Seeds of Change has a collection that looks to be just as fun and a little different. In this collection, you and your child can plant Japanese Hulless Popcorn, Dow Purple Podded Pole Bean, Oxheart Carrot, Matt's Wild Cherry Tomato, Sugar Baby Watermelon, Lemon Cucumber, Sugar Snap Pea, Tom Thumb Lettuce, Red Ridinghood Lettuce, Righteous Red Zinnia, and Jack-o-lite Pumpkin. Children love picking flowers, and studies show they will even be more willing to taste those vegetables if they've had the opportunity to watch them grow.
Renee's Garden has its own Children's Garden Collection, which also are available at local garden centers. This collection includes: Easter Egg Radishes; Cinderella's Carriage Pumpkins; Sunzilla Sunflowers; Tricolor Pole Beans; Raggedy Anne Zinnias as well as copies of Renee's cookbooks.
Not to be outdone, Park Seed Company has a ''Laugh and Learn Seed Collection'' that is quite different from all of the others. Only four plants are offered, but these plants can be grown on their own or can be added to another collection of primarily vegetable plants to round it out.
The names of the plants alone will generate excitement for an upcoming gardener. Each collection includes one packet each of 'Peek-a-Boo' Eyeball Plant, Bunny Tails Ornamental Grass, Easter Egg Plant, and 'Candy Corn' Snapdragon. According to Park's Web site, ''Even adults will find it hard to suppress a giggle at the sight of these fun and unusual seed varieties!''
Eyeball plants are Spilanthes oleracea, a sun loving flower that is a perennial in zones 10 and 11 - think Florida and South America. Start the seeds indoors about eight weeks prior to our last frost date, which in northeast Ohio is mid- to late-May. In about three months from germination, the odd eyeball-shaped flowers will bloom.
The Bunny Tails ornamental grass, Lagurus ovatus, grows only 12 to 20 inches tall. The plant produces soft plumes that resemble a bunny's tail, which can be dried after blooming for use in indoor arrangements. Some people have commented that their plant will reseed while others haven't had the same luck, but seeds can be collected and saved for next spring.
The Easter Egg plant isn't something new if you've paid attention to this column and the Sunday sale pages in the newspaper. Once a trendy plant, this is simply an small, oval-shaped white eggplant that eventually turn pale yellow. It is edible and can be amusing as you try to convince your friends you are really growing ''eggs'' in the garden.
Finally, the 'Candy Corn' snapdragon seeds, (Antirrhinum majus) are our familiar summer annual snapdragons, but these are colored like the favorite candy corn candy in shades of orange and yellow. Like the common snapdragons we find in our garden centers in spring, this plant will bloom all summer and has a fragrant cinnamon-like scent.
Evanoff is a Master Gardener with The Ohio State University Extension of Trumbull County. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org