2018-12-07 / Home & Garden

A Child’s Garden of Herbs

Stopping to smell the flowers
By Arlene Marturano

A child’s world is a scented garden from birth. With the first breath the nose sends odors directly to the brain. Scents map onto memory starting in infancy and last a lifetime triggering recollection, emotions, learning, and stimulating retention.

Since herbs, aromatic plants used for medicine, flavoring, food, fragrances and dye, open an olfactory route to learning, how are children introduced to herbs?

Beatrix Potter channeled her scent-filled life as a gardener into writing and drawing for children. She introduced children to herbs like chamomile, borage, parsley, sage, thyme, tansy, rosemary, lemon balm, hyssop, lavender, and mint in her Peter Rabbit series. Today the series prompts children to grow a Peter Rabbit Garden of soporific lettuces, salad herbs, and flopsy bunny tea herbs.

The aromas of family food preparation arouse a child’s senses and salivation in anticipation of tastes to come in pizza (basil and oregano), baked potatoes (chives), chicken (rosemary), and turkey (sage dressing). Herbs flavor toothpaste, floss, candy, chewing gum, and ice cream. Holiday scents emanate from herbs and spices in anise cookies, gingerbread boys, pfeffernusse, peppermint tea and candy canes, and potpourri.


A plethora of perennial thyme varieties makes for a versatile thyme labyrinth. A plethora of perennial thyme varieties makes for a versatile thyme labyrinth. The migratory path of herbs on earth followed the pilgrimages of people who took seed to new territories. Children can track herbs back to their native countries, even tracing their ancestral herbal roots while constructing herbal scented maps, herb garden maps, and personal herb genealogy charts that replicate history and geography from the perspective of useful plants.

Planting catnip, Nepeta cataria, for the family feline or adoption agency cats leads to the purrfect herbal craft. Fill 2”x4” fabric bags with fiberfill and dried catnip. Nepetalactone, one essential oil in catnip, excites cats.


Children can propagate a dozen different herbs at a time in eggshells. Children can propagate a dozen different herbs at a time in eggshells. A tussie-mussie is a child-sized posy combining herbs, scented flowers, and scented sprigs of leaves. In Victorian times plants chosen relayed a message in the language of flowers. Dill conveyed good cheer; marjoram meant joy; and rosemary was for remembrance. Children delight in fashioning nosegays with messages for teachers, family, and friends.

Sleep pillows are 4”x4” fabric squares filled with a mixture of dried herbs including hop flowers, lemon balm, lavender, and chamomile for humans. The tiny herbal pillow is slipped inside one’s pillowcase to let aromatherapy provide a restful sleep.

Herbs add soothing scent to the roundabout path of a labyrinth. Walking an herbal labyrinth is purported to quiet the mind, ease sorrow, inspire creativity, and provide insights into life perplexities.


Beatrix Potter books encourage children to grow an herb garden and cook with Peter Rabbit. Beatrix Potter books encourage children to grow an herb garden and cook with Peter Rabbit. Children propagate herbs by seed and stem cuttings. Herbs germinate from seed sprinkled atop a wet sponge. When true leaves form, transplant to a small pot and place in a sunlit window or under grow lights.

An egg carton eggshell garden grows a dozen herbs at a time. Punch a hole in the bottom of each eggshell before adding moistened soilless potting mix. Sprinkle seeds into the soil and water gently with a mister spray. When seedlings have sets of true leaves, transplant to small pots or, if soil is warm, directly into prepared garden soil.

Stem cuttings require clippings from mature plants of basil, lemon balm, marjoram, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, stevia, and thyme. Place 4”-6” stem cuttings in water and watch the roots form.

What does your child’s garden of herbs grow?


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