Articles by Jim Gainan

As published in the Billings Gazette

Theme gardens are a great way to spend time with your kids

With school ending soon and prime planting season upon us, now is the perfect time to get your kids involved in the garden. Planning and planting a theme garden together is a fun way to foster some creativity.

Ideas for theme gardens are as unlimited as your imagination. Plop down in your yard with your kids and some lemonade for a brainstorming session. They'll be sure to surprise you with some of their ideas.

Here are some themes to get you started:

Pizza garden: planted with ingredients that can be used on pizza - oregano, parsley, basil, onions, peppers, Roma tomatoes

Salsa garden: hot peppers, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, garlic

Kitchen garden: named so because traditionally these gardens were usually planted with all edible plants and located just outside of the kitchen door, but may include some cutting flowers for the kitchen table: chives, basil, parsley, rosemary, thyme, sage, dill, oregano, marjoram, savory, mint or tarragon for the herbs. Then you could include vegetables that your family likes to eat: tomatoes, onions, beans, lettuce, radishes, cucumbers, beets, carrots, etc. - This list is limited only by your space.

ABC garden: Plant one plant for each letter of the alphabet. Alyssum to Zinnia. Hint: Q - Queen Anne's Lace and X - Xeranthemum

Fairy garden: Think small, low-growing and tiny-leafed plants and create a space for these magical people. Carpet their dance floor with creeping thyme or moss. Foxglove, miniature roses, bells of Ireland, coral bells, fragrant herbs, sweet woodruff, wild strawberry, hollyhocks

Wizard of Oz garden: poppies, "munchkin" pumpkins and of course, a scarecrow!

Outer Space garden: cosmos, snapdragons 'Rocket Series', moonflowers, 'Moon & Stars' watermelon

Butterfly garden: 'Autumn Joy' sedum, Asclepias (Butterfly flower), Scabiosa (Pincushion flower), Coneflower, Lavender, Shasta Daisy, Butterfly bush, lilac, coreopsis, Achillea, Astilbe, Armeria. You also have to plant to feed the caterpillars - borage and dill work well.

Color Gardens: From the all-white moon garden to a rainbow garden, masses of plants in the same color are eye-catching. Choose colors from your favorite sports team and show your support all season long or select plants that have the same name as colors - lavender, goldenrod, cornflower, pinks. If planting a moon garden, be sure to select flowers that do not close at night: white petunias, babies' breath, chrysanthemums, roses and try some silvery dusty miller or greenery with variegated leaves such as hostas.

Whether choosing to plant a structured English Knot garden or an untamed wildflower garden, make it a family affair and enjoy the rewards all season.

Questions or comments? Contact Jim Gainan via email at Jim Gainan is a VP/shareholder of Gainan's Floral and Garden Center in Billings.