This article was originally published on February 12, 2018 and expired on February 19, 2018. It is provided here for archival purposes and may contain dated information.
Have you ever thought of combining literature and gardening? Rhonda Ferree, Horticulture Educator with University of Illinois Extension, says literature gardens do just that.
Ferree remembers a past Chicago Flower & Garden Show, where two popular children’s books came alive in gardens: “The Tales of Peter Rabbit” and “Where the Wild Things Are.”
One of the most popular (and crowded) gardens at that year’s show was Mr. McGregor’s Garden. In it, the famous adventures of Peter Rabbit seemed to come alive. This exhibit focused on the young rabbit’s escapades in Mr. McGregor’s vegetable garden. Around the outside of the garden, the story was told through strategically placed signs.
The story of Peter Rabbit was written by Beatrix Potter in 1902 but is still as magical today. The garden version included bits and pieces from the story. Peter’s lost red jacket lay in the walkway, as did his shoes. Peter even made an appearance in the potting shed, hidden in a large watering can! This exhibit also included Mr. McGregor’s carefully tended cottage flower garden of delphinium, foxgloves, clematis, bellflowers, roses, and sweet peas. The plant list for this garden included five trees and shrubs, 36 perennial flowering plants and vines, six different roses, 26 seasonal plants, 18 herbs, and 36 fruit and vegetable varieties. Ferree called it, “Quite an outstanding exhibit”!
The other storybook garden was based on the popular children’s book by Maurice Sendak called “Where the Wild Things Are.” Although this garden could not as easily be created in a typical yard, it was still inspiring. Visitors explored a forest filled with life-sized woodland animal topiaries, including a six-and-a-half-foot bear. The topiaries were made of wire bent into animal and human shapes, which were covered with a sphagnum peat moss material. Large balled-and-burlapped trees were brought in to create the forest. The tallest plants were a backdrop of 10-15 foot bamboo. Ferree said, “The garden was magical!”
Rhonda suggests creating a literature garden in your yard this summer. Base it on your favorite book. Examples suggested by Ferree include “The Secret Garden,” “Winnie the Pooh,” Charlotte’s Web,” and “Thumbelina,” just to name a few. Obviously, they do not have to be as elaborate as those created in Chicago’s Navy Pier. A small corner of the yard would work just as well and be a great place to escape into a fairytale world.
The Chicago Garden and Flower Show is March 13-18, 2018 at Chicago’s Navy Pier. Or, there is always next year’s show, which will bring all new gardening magic and delight! Go to http://www.chicagoflower.com/ for more information.
Source: Rhonda J. Ferree, Extension Educator, Horticulture, firstname.lastname@example.org
Pull date: February 19, 2018