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  • Diane Seufert Tait

Children and Gardens - A Perfect Match

When I was a child, I spent almost all my waking hours, when not at school, outside. I would lie under a huge bitternut tree in our yard and stare into its leaves, just observing. I would carefully look along the ground, taking in all the little plants and insects. There was a grown over foundation hole for a long gone women's school behind our house. It was a gold mine of Periwinkle blooms, vines hanging from trees that we swung on, and all sorts of other plants and fossils to find.

My father had flower gardens all around our house and I found the Lily of the Valley plants most magical for their form and wonderful scent. Our neighbor cultivated a huge vegetable garden every year. One day he handed me a vine-ripened tomato and told me to take a bite. It tasted sweet! I had no idea that tomatoes could taste so good.

I guess it was no surprise that I had to have all my plants in a garden when I started my journey to become a herbalist. Over the decades I have become fascinated with all the differences between the plants. I love watching what pollinators like which plants. I have come to realize that there is a whole ecosystem in my garden and I learn new things every year.

When my grand daughter was born, in Australia, I knew our time together was going to be limited. I wanted very much to teach her what I knew about my gardens and found myself writing a book about it. With the help of a very good friend and her beautiful illustrations, the Olivia's Garden books were born. And yes, my granddaughter's name is Olivia, of course!

When she was visiting us in the summer when she was just 3 years old, we were sitting together on the back porch, looking out at the garden. All of sudden she sat right up, pointed at the garden and turned her head to look at me as she shouted, "Olivia's Garden! Olivia's Garden!" Mission accomplished.

When we visit Australia, sometimes Olivia and I go for walks. She always notices plants growing in the cracks and crevasses of the sidewalk and road. Her pockets become full of Frangipane flowers which she picks from the ground under the many trees along our way. Treasures of childhood. Even special stones and cones.

Children cannot resist the pull of the natural world. They are so open to receive the beauty and fascination of such interesting forms, colors, insects, and smell. This is my garden full of Olivia's Garden fans in 2017, visiting during an open house. We had a lovely, hot, summer's afternoon, and they rushed around to find their favorite characters in real life. They even met the illustrator and enjoyed hearing how the illustrations were drawn.

When they went home, each child was given a baby Calendula plant, Cally, in the book. I received reports of successes from the proud new gardeners as their plants thrived and blossomed.

Let your children wander and look, smell, and maybe once in a while pick. They will follow their instincts, looking and learning as they allow themselves to relax and totally engage with our beautiful planet. Start some flower seeds right now in the winter. Put them in a sunny window. Don't over water and have some fun as the miracle of life unfolds under your nose.

And if you are interested in checking out Olivia's Garden and New Friends in Olivia's Garden, ( ages 3-7/8), you can email me at, or go to the website at: Your children need lots of unstructured time in nature to help them heal from a very difficult 2 years. All the best to everyone.

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