Sunday, June 12, 2016


In early spring my Dad would take the whole family into the woods in search of the native Pussy Willow (Salix discolor). This was a great adventure for us and we never came home empty handed. I fondly remember stroking the fuzzy catkins — soft as a kitten — lining the stems.  This memory came back to me in March at a landscape conference I attended. I was offered pussy willow branches that were on display arranged in containers to take home. I was assured by the UNH Cooperative Extension staff that they were very easy to root so I decided to give it a shot!

I put the willow branches in a maple syrup bucket filled with water by my front door. It was a lovely accent while waiting patiently to see if they would grow roots. Coincidentally, I did find potted Pussy Willows at my local supermarket which I purchased and planted, just in case I was unsuccessful with my efforts.
It was many weeks later that I noticed the buds breaking and soft green leaves emerging.  Most of the branches had grown roots. I planted the rooting branches in various locations throughout my landscape. 
Although normally found in sunny wet areas, UNH has been growing them successfully in dryer locations. I am hoping(fingers crossed) to get them established and eventually find a home for them in one of my projects. If you don’t have the resources and time to root cuttings, look for container plants at your local garden center or online. 

The Pussy Willow and Black Willow (Salix nigra) are a great addition to any landscape as they are important pollinator plants. Blooming at a time when much of the garden is still asleep, these woody plants provide nectar and/or pollen before much else is available. Nectar is the primary energy source for bees, while pollen provides the protein essential to brood rearing and the development of young bees. They are also host plants for Mourning Cloak and Viceroy Butterflies. Consider adding some willows to your landscape whether it is for children or pollinators!

Here is a book written by Margaret Wise Brown called “Pussy Willow” that would be a great companion to read along with children in early spring as the willows flower in your landscape!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016


The landscape is finally coming alive—casting a spring green haze along the
road sides with red accents of flowering Swamp Maples. The emerging growing season reminds me that children will soon come in close contact with the natural world, often in their own yards, parks or at school.  It is wise to be aware of toxic plants that are found in many planted landscapes. When I am designing landscapes for children there are toxic plants that I do not use. Some that are very common in our yards are yews, rhododendrons, narcissus  and lily of the valley.
Lily of the Valley

If you have these plants in your yard don’t be alarmed…just be aware. When I was growing up my mother always told us never to touch or eat the berries on the yews. She was aware and made us aware. I did have a scare many years ago when my 3 year old daughter handed my 9 month old son who was sitting in the strollera bunch of lily of the valley that she had picked while we were on a walk. He proceeded to put it into his mouth! Since he had no teeth I was pretty sure he had not ingested anything but I did call the poison center. I was aware that it was a poisonous plant. He is now a healthy 29 year old father of a 9 month old! 

You can download a free Poisonous Plants Brochure at:
The Northern New England Poison Center or you can get an extensive list (including house plants) from the Illinois Poison Center.

The list identifies each plant with a
“Plant Toxicity Rating Scale” from 0 to 3:

0 – These plants are nontoxic. Remember, even nontoxic leaves and berries can pose choking hazards to small children.
1 – Symptoms may occur which are mild and not life threatening, such as minor nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or skin rashes.
2 – Symptoms may occur which are moderate (hallucination, severe stomach irritation, profuse diarrhea/dehydration)
3 – Symptoms may occur which are severe and life threatening (irregular heartbeat, breathing distress, seizure, shock, paralysis or coma)

This information is helpful when assessing risks and level of concern. We — as parents, teachers and care givers, are responsible for teaching our children to be respectful not fearful of the natural world. We will do a better job if we are also more aware and informed. If you have young children, it is a good idea to have the number of your poison center on hand...just in case.

So...what about dirt?

See what the Illinois Poison Center has to say about that in there blog post:

My Child Ate…Nature!

Monday, April 4, 2016


In keeping with my February post “Reuse, Reduce, Recycle” I stumbled upon a great repurposing idea of my own this winter. I have always composted my organic scraps — sometimes just leaving them in bowl or plastic bag until I was able to make a trip to the compost bin.

With a sink full of carrot peels that needed to be composted, a just emptied plastic Cascade dishwasher detergent pod container, left sitting my kitchen counter, caught my eye. In went the carrot peels! It is clear, has a secure green flip top lid, and a compact yet ample size to hold a few days’ worth of organic debris. And if I want to store it out of sight, it fits easily under the sink. Voila!

It works!
I could not stop there. Although absolutely functional it was not very attractive. The labels were impossible to peel off so I decided to experiment with some crafting and, at the same time, thinking this could be great a handmade earth friendly gift for children to make. How could I decorate this container in a way that would be easy for them as well ? I decided to do a collage of all things that you can compost. My colleague Mindy works and crafts with children all the time and told me about Mod Podge—wonder glue and coating that is safe for children to use. With materials in hand (I used the highly water resistant outdoor formula), a little research and pictures cut out of magazines of all things compostable, I started to create an organic collage over the labels.
Finished Product!

It came out pretty cute, if I do say so myself, and most importantly, works like a charm!  I have been using it for almost a month now and the Mod Podge sealing is standing up to frequent rinsing.

If you are looking for a project that is suitable for children who can cut and paste start collecting these containers. It's a great gift for the Earth, Mom and Dad!

Don’t forget Earth Day is April 22!  It is never too early to teach children about being good stewards of planet Earth! How will you celebrate Earth Day?  

Monday, February 22, 2016


A recent visit to the
Smith Children’s Garden at the Naples Botanical Garden in Florida offered an imaginative example of repurposing items for use in the garden. 

Webster’s dictionary defines repurpose as: 
to change (something) so that it can be used for a different purpose

I consider repurposing items as another way to REUSE, REDUCE, RECYCLE.

It had never crossed my mind to use a worn purse, old rain boots or even more unusual, an old pair of “mom” jeans as a planter — much more interesting than a terracotta pot! What a great idea that adds color and whimsy to drab fences and walls while creating a learning opportunity for children. It had never crossed my mind to use a worn pocketbook, old rain boots or even more unusual, a pair of “mom” jeans as a planter — much more interesting than a terracotta pot.
Although Earth Day is months away why not consider mobilizing an effort to collect items that no longer serve their original purpose, turn them into growing vessels and create a unique living gallery!

This may seem like a small gesture, but I view this as an example and reminder for all of us to reuse, reduce and recycle. It is never too early to teach children about our responsibility to respect and care for our environment, whether it be by planting a tree, picking up litter or composting kitchen waste — for they are the future stewards of our planet.



The Naturally Rooted LLC Facebook page has launched! We are posting grants, upcoming conferences,ideas,resources,inspiration...all things related to connecting children to nature.

Monday, January 25, 2016


I look forward to the start of the new year— it's a time for reflection, new beginnings and possibilities. It's also a time to create new goals. In 2015 my goals were to:

·         Finish hiking the forty-eight 4,000’ mountains in New Hampshire
·         Start Children & Nature blog and write a post at least once a month

I am proud to announce I was able to check them both off!

It’s a toss-up as to which was my most challenging and greatest achievement, but I will never forget one moment of the glorious fall day that I hiked my final 4,000’ mountain, Mt. Tom, with a group of 19 friends and family. Some had never hiked a 4,000’ mountain and everyone who joined me through out the years on this quest was present with only two missing. The youngest hiker was 7 years old and the oldest 68. The day could not have been better!

Everything accomplished or experienced beyond those achievements was a bonus.It was a memorable year, both personally and professionally. 

So, with that in mind, I have set some goals for 2016, that focus on my love of family, nature, and my work connecting children to nature:

·     The National Park Service is celebrating its 100th Anniversary. In celebration of that significant achievement I am going to visit and explore as many National Parks as I can.
Half Dome in Yosemite National Park

Mt. Katahdin in Maine
·      Begin hiking the remaining 4,000’ mountains
     (at least one) in Maine and Vermont

·      Continue designing nature based learning and play environments for children while writing and improving this blogsharing resources and ideas that connect children and nature. Maybe branching out to include Facebook? Not making any promises on that but I do like a challenge!

Why not use the positive energy of longer days, the seed catalogs arriving in the mail and the inevitable arrival of spring and set your “achievable” goals for 2016. 

If you need a boost and some inspiration this winter check out: 

2016 In Bloom Conference:
Promising Practices in Nature Based Early Childhood Education

sponsored by Antioch University
are held in March, May & June in locations around New England.


Registration is open!

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