Shrubby Milkwort

Polygala chamaebuxus

preview hoep 00021 polygala chamaebuxus buchsblaettrige kreuzblumeA typical plant of dry grass land and sunny borders of forests on sandy-gravelly soils is a small plant, which is hardly to be overlooked during its blossoming in the spring and early summer: the Shrubby Milkwort. This evergreen ground cover plant has blossoms which are at least two-colored, often even three-colored: white, yellow and pink-orange to reddish brown.

This plant will be spread like many other small flowering plants by ants. Although they are only interested in the fatty appendages (elaiosome) of the seeds, ants carry the seeds also to new locations again and again.


Pisum sativum

preview hoep 00020 pisum sativum erbsePeas have been cultivated by humans for at least 10 000 years. The oldest findings date back from the Neolithic Age and are about 8 000 years old. During this time, probably the first cultivated forms developed. When agriculture became a major factor in Central Europe, peas became more and more important, in fact, it developed, together with lentils, into a staple food for humans.

Whenever children are exposed to first gardening experiences, it should not be done without growing peas – in particular those with a good taste of course , i.e. sugar peas. On a sunny spot with fine crumbling, not overly nutrient-rich and deep soil, success is almost inevitable.


Solanum tuberosum

preview hoep 00025 solanum tuberosum kartoffel blueteNowadays many children living in cities (many adults too though…) do not have any conception of the growing and blooming of one of our most important crops – the potato. Some assume even that this plant does not need at all to flower, because the tubers sprout anyway again and again. For this reason a picture proofing that potatoes do not only flower, but its blooms are also very attractive.

And if we want to draw the attention of children to it: The small green fruits, which form later, are not peas and should not be eaten - under no circumstances.

Purple Willow

Salix purpurea

preview hoep 00026 salix purpurea blutweideWillows do not only belong to the oldest agricultural crops of mankind, but can be used particularly also by children in many ways. Its robust growth, the pronounced ability to grow back after a substantial trim cut and of course the flexibility of the branches make it an interesting, natural building material.

The plant genus willow (Salix) comprises about 450 different species world-wide, which can be differentiated sometimes only with difficulty from each other. Native to Central Europe there are at least about 40 species, but often they hybridize with each other, thus form natural hybrids. In practice therefore only stature groups are differentiated.

The Purple willow (Salix purpurea), which is similar to the Basket willow (Salix viminalis) can also be used for weaving. Both types grow tree-like and can be used as osier with short trunk and numerous young branches in every year if cut back regularly.

Red-berried Elder

Sambucus racemosa

preview hoep 00024 sambucus racemosa traubenholunderUnlike the Black Elder the blooms and fruits of Red-berried Elder do not grow in flat curved clusters (umbels), but in small, cone-shaped racemes (panicle). The fruits are bright red and ready to harvest in late July. For the usage as a wild fruit similar measures as for the larger relative are to be taken, though, with an important addition: Since the seeds or cores of the fruits contain toxic substances even after cooking fruits of the Red-berried Elder should always be strained before subsequent processing steps. As a consequence, these fruits, which contain particularly high amounts of vitamin C and other valuable ingredients are used exclusively for the production of juice, syrup and jelly.