Plant family gardens would provide some unusual bedfellows, as well as a painless little lesson in botany. Botanically speaking, a family of plants is a group of related genera which botanists have so classified because of a family resemblance. Sometimes the family characteristics are as recognizable as the Jones family nose. The mints, for instance, share their squarish stems and fragrant foliage. Most often, however, the characteristics are based on technical structural similarities, obscure to the amateur. The supervisor can put as much, or as little, emphasis on the technicalities involved as he deems feasible. A good botany book should be used as a guide, however, and some general idea of the basis for the classifications should be imparted to the children. Piepare yourself to answer questions.
Call these gardens "family reunions." It is almost a certainty that so many plant relatives never got together in one garden before. Some plant families are so large that it would be impossible to include more than a representative gathering. Also the same family sometimes embraces annuals, perennials, trees, vines and shrubs, and this again presents a problem of selection. To make the point about the strange assortment of members in any given family, post at the garden corner a waterproofed list of necessary omissions, reading: "Relatives who couldn't come."
Most plant families have their black sheep. These are the weeds, which won't be wanted in the garden. However, they should be entered on the posted list as "Not invited."
Below are some of the possibilities for family reunions:
Daisy family (Compositae). Members include artichoke, endive, lettuce, salsify, dahlia, chrysanthemum, coreopsis, marigold, aster, cosmos, Shasta daisy, ageratum, achillea, artemisia, calendula, centaurea, gaillardia, sneezeweed, sunflower, rud-beckia, stokesia, zinnia, tithonia, anthemis, arctotis, cladanthus, gerbera, dimorphotheca, doronicum, globe thistle, gazania,
fleabane, eupatorium, sanvitalia and goldenrod. Black sheep: Burdock, ragweed, beggar-tick, hawkweed, dog fennel, dandelion, wild chicory and thistles of many kinds.
Lily family (Liliaceae). Here you have onion, chive, garlic, shallot, asparagus, daylily, plantain lily, red hot poker, star of Bethlehem, grape hyacinth, squill, Solomon's seal, tril-lium, dogtooth violet, foxtail lily, glory of the snow, mariposa tulip, autumn crocus, yucca and all the true lily varieties. Black sheep: Wild garlic.
Mint family (Labiatae). Spearmint, peppermint, apple-mint, catnip, pennyroyal, lavender, sage, sweet majoram, thyme, basil, savory, salvia, bergamot, bugle, coleus, obedient plant, lamb's ears, bells of Ireland. Black sheep: Ground ivy ( gill-over-the-ground).
Mustard family (Craciferae or Brassicaceae). Cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, radish, watercress and other cresses, mustard, nasturtium, evening stock, wallflower, sweet alyssum, candytuft, and honesty. Black sheep: Wild mustard.
Nightshade family (Solanaceae). Potato, eggplant, pepper, tomato, tobacco, Jerusalem cherry, petunia, salpiglossis, schizanthus, browallia, datura, nicotiana, physalis, nierem-bergia. Black sheep: Jimsonweed, deadly nightshade, horse nettle.