A boy and his garden
Here’s a fun project to get kids outdoors and do some planting.
IT STARTED the way so many childhood passions do: by watching.
Boston photographer Kim Lowe was working in her garden, and two- year- old Oliver wanted to be where she was. More specifically, he was mad that he wasn’t, and banged on the window until she realised.
So out he came: “I have a picture of him – barely walking then – in a little chair, sitting while I’m gardening.” Time with his mum may have lured him outside, but it’s the garden itself that’s kept him there.
Oliver, now six, has revelled in some of the more obvious lessons gardens have to offer – about seasons and plants, about shoots and soil – but many less expected ones too: about freedom and independence, waiting and wondering, triumph and failure.
They’re gardening still, Kim and Oliver, and last year we were lucky enough to have them document their labor of love for us all to enjoy. Whether you have a whole plot or just a few pots, their simple and touching story might inspire your family to get planting too.
“When we first started, I let Oliver loose,” recalls Kim. “I didn’t discourage him from enjoying the garden in his own way, which meant accepting some chaos.”
So, yes, he decapitated her tulips, kicked a pumpkin around like a ball, and used Kim’s prized Elephant Ear as an umbrella. But he also harvested the pumpkin’s seeds when it cracked open, and learned that plants are waterproof. “That’s how he fell in love with gardening.”
There may be no more profound lesson a garden teaches than patience. Seeds germinated in the early spring might not bear fruit until the fall. You plant tulips in the fall, and they sleep all winter, like bears. Or consider carrots, which take forever to do their thing underground – still, that’s what makes them one of Oliver’s favorites: “You can’t see them growing. You just have to wait. But then you get to dig them up!”
The garden is a full- sensory experience for Oliver. He touches and smells everything. Kim had to teach him that you don’t eat the tomato plants – just the tomatoes – even though the plant smelled so much like something you would want to eat.
“He makes me see the garden in a completely different way. I see him touching and smelling everything, and I get down to his height and do it too.”
Push one tiny seed into the soil, wait a couple of months, and harvest dozens, maybe even hundreds, of cherry tomatoes. A sunflower seed the size of your pinkie fingernail turns into a crazily huge plant you can – you must – look up to.
“Planting a seed is magical,” Kim explains. “You don’t realise until you do it.”
Oliver tastes everything right away. He picks beets and eats them raw. He nibbles whole, sun- warmed zucchini. He devours bitter arugula by the handful.
Kim and Oliver even did a taste test to see how much sweeter carrots get after a frost.
He’s learning to cook too: His beloved basil plant is turned into pesto, which has its own requirements. “We planted garlic this year because he needed it for his pesto,” says Kim.
For Kim and Oliver, making row markers from old blinds is a natural extension of the pioneering spirit of the garden. The whole experience, really, teaches the importance of conserving the earth’s limited resources.
But the most important thing Oliver’s learning might be about learning itself. As Kim puts it, “Ours is not a perfect garden! It’s a space for Oliver to explore, to say ‘ Let’s see what happens.’ “Right alongside his plants, he’s growing, and growing up. – Family Fun magazine/ Tribune News Service
The most profound lesson a garden teaches is patience.
ll sensory e erience In gardening, the child sees, touches and smells everything. — Photos: