Have a Spring Fling! Springtime herbs can be fun! 

Throw off your shoes and kick up your heels! The warmer days of spring have arrived and there is no better time to enjoy herbs from the garden! 

Sweet Cicely is one of the first herbs to push up through the ground after the last bit of snow disappears.  With a little sunshine and warmth from the first few beautiful days, the seedlings begin to thrive. Sweet Cicely is a tall ferny looking plant with a very distinct licorice flavour! The scent is wonderful when released from a little touching.  The frothy white flowers may not impress young gardeners but the licorice flavour from chewing a fresh spring stem will!  The flavour will remind us older gardeners of the little black balls we used to get for a penny. 

The first leaves from the perennial woolly lamb's ears are easily recognized for their soft downy touch. Many perennials look the same when they have only a couple of their first leaves. But not this plant. The texture alone gives it away every time. 
Sowing seeds out of doors in the spring, is the easiest when gardening with children, especially when you choose plants that will thrive with little attention but also reward with bright beautiful blooms. Try some blue flax flowers, black eyed Susan's or nigella for long lasting flowering times. 

Edible flowers are bountiful in the spring as well. Carefully pick blooms and rinse with cool water. There are many fine books out today that share interesting recipes using edible flowers. Why not try some candied violets? Did you know that lilacs, apple blossoms, and marigolds can be eaten? 

Like fresh salads? Spring is the best time to harvest fresh greens for salads and stir fries. Many plants that are edible, offer tender leaves in spring.  Evening primrose, yarrow, dandelion, and many other wild herbs can also be used in salads. 

There is always something new to try in the herb garden! 

This summer plan a herb garden with your kids. Here are some easy low-maintenance and fun herbs to grow. 

Hens and Chickens 
Once known as a poultice herb, this plant is drought tolerant and interesting to children because of the name.  Watch as the mother plant hatches her little brood in your garden. Ideal for container gardening for balconies. 

Johnny Jump-Ups 
(as shown here) 
As the legend tell us, the fairies come out at night and paint the violas with their paint brushes.  No two blooms are ever the same.  Look carefully to see the strokes of yellow, purple and mauve. Violas drop their seeds readily to give you years of enjoyment as they always replenish themselves!    Marigold 
Calendula officinalis 
Bright cheery blooms from this annual are delightful, especially when they bloom in a frosty October garden!  Toss fresh petals into custard, cakes and salads!  For those parents looking for herbal remedies that are safe for children -  this is the place to start!  Many books on the market today will explain how calendula can be used to make your own infused oil for salves, lotions and creams. Caledula is often found in many children's skin care products and first-aid treatments. 

The Fairy Garden - Little imaginations run wild when garden features are scaled to their size.  Little hands play for hours in a make-believe setting that encourages imagination and individual creativity. Sometimes these important factors are lost in our technologically advanced world, where modern-day children are over-exposed to video games and television. 
Hours may be spent arranging rocks and pebbles for paths and garden edging.  The fairies love interesting rocks with flecks of crystals and colours. 

This garden has miniature thyme to grace the sitting area of the courtyard.  Miniature furniture adds the final touch and an inviting swing is easily made from a piece of wood.  

Other plants that make a nice addition to the fairy garden include apple-scented chamomile, crisp lemon thyme, wandering chocolate mint, bugleweed (Ajuga reptans) with it's tiny bugle-like blooms, sweet grass that smells of vanilla upon drying and most importantly Lady's mantle (Alchemilla mollis) because it holds rain drops so the fairies may wash and stay beautiful and youthful forever, as the folklore tells us. 

Woolly Lambs Ears 
Stachys byzantina 
No children's garden would be complete without the soft downy touch of this plant which is sometimes called bunny ears too.  Even babies are comforted by a soft leaf to rub like a favourite blankie! This perennial herb does well in a hot dry location where the sun shines all day! Children are fascinated by seeing the tiny hairs of the leaf under a magnifying glass.  
Nepeta cataria 
What child wouldn't be amused by a crazed cat indulging in some fine nip!  Children love to watch as felines roll, play and go silly in the garden.  This plant was valued by our pioneer  foremothers since the leaves when brewed into a mild tea were sometimes all they had at hand to soothe the terrible cries of a colicky baby
Lemon Balm 
Melissa officinalis 
Our celebrated herb of the year for 2001 is so lemony and delightful that any child would be interested in starting their own garden if introduced to this perennial favourite.  The green leaves when crushed release the most pungent of lemon scents from any of the lemon scented herbs; which are all of interest to children.  However, lemon balm is the easiest of all to care for.  Either as a new plant or from seeds, this herb will flourish in most any garden for years and years to come.  Years from now, the scent will remind them of their childhood days spent happily frolicking in mother's garden!  The leaves make a refreshing herbal tea or punch when infused in ginger ale for a hot summer's day!

Watch for more upcoming ideas from Herbs At Home!