The Last World
Color in Garden - Plate 11b

The emphasis throughout this book on personally appealing gardens for children rather than conventional easy ones, may disturb some readers.

The time has come, therefore, to define "easy" and "difficult." Little known plants are not necessarily more difficult than commonplace ones. No plant is difficult in its natural environment. None is easy in an unsuitable one. Generally speaking, plants become difficult under certain circumstances.

First, they are difficult when especially susceptible to diseases prevalent in certain localities. Plants in this predicament are poor choices for any child, and without question should be avoided.

Second, plants may be difficult when grown in locations where all their needs are not supplied by nature. In this case, however, the gardener can often compensate for climatic and soil shortcomings and modify conditions to suit them.

Most plants are not native to the areas in which they are grown. Some adapt themselves to new locations more readily than others. But experienced gardeners take it for granted that they must change soil textures, add lime, acidifiers or fertilizer, provide extra moisture or good drainage, protect with winter mulches, supply full sun or light shade, or whatever may be required.

Children who can learn to read, write and play games can learn how to make these adjustments too, when they are not too complicated. Comparatively few are complicated, but frequently they are both specific and essential. Certainly they are no harder to learn than the multiplication table or putting together an erector set or a batch of fudge.

The tired old legend of the green thumb, which ascribes a mysterious propensity for effortless gardening success to a few gifted people, needs deflating at this point. The most sensible thing ever said about this persistent myth was, "A green thumb is a dirty thumb." In other words, the successful gardener works hard to give his plants the care they need.

It has been suggested previously that the first chore for a beginner is to find out exactly what special treatment is prescribed for everything he plans to grow. If this information is written down, and carefully followed, a child can grow with very little extra trouble many things that might be considered difficult.

Whether the novice attempts plants that need much special attention, however, does depend on his own nature. Some children must be restricted at first to varieties needing a minimum of coddling. The majority are quite capable of coping with a few extra requirements, if the reason for growing them is compelling enough. A few children may deliberately choose the calculated risk.