Planting Gardens Based on Books

Liz Schnabolk

The sheer number of children’s books that feature plants is proof of how important nature is to kids. And since they have such emotional memories attached to their favorite books, bringing more attention to the botanical and scientific concepts behind those stories can lead to an immersive gardening experience, says Greta Pemberton, manager of children and youth programs at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in Brooklyn, New York. Storybook gardens are also great for smaller spaces, since the books often focus on one type of plant that can be cultivated in a container. Here are Pemberton’s favorite options for storybook gardens:

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes This book, about a child with a hard-to-pronounce name, focuses on the Chrysanthemum flower. This plant blooms in the fall, so it’s a good option for a seasonal bed or pot.

Jack and the Beanstalk by Joseph Jacobs Beanstalks are a favorite at the Children’s Garden—it even has a bean tunnel with a trellis kids can crawl through. In conjunction with this famous fable, plant four pots and connect them with a mini teepee of bamboo sticks. “It’s fun to watch the plants climb up the trellises and chart their growth on the stakes with a marker,” says Pemberton. “And once they’re grown they create a fun hideaway between them.”

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney One of Pemberton’s childhood favorites, this book features a woman who fills her pockets with lupine seeds and scatters them all over the countryside to make the world more beautiful. These can also be planted in a pot or as part of a larger flower bed.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter This book can serve as the inspiration for an entire vegetable garden since that’s where the story takes place. You can also throw in some blackberries—which is what Peter was supposed to be gathering when he ran off to Mr. McGregor’s vegetable patch!

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