In a previous column, I came up with some ideas that you might find helpful when it comes to involving children in the world of plants. You might remember that I suggested planting a “butterfly bush” (Buddlea) and placing a butterfly house nearby. I also mentioned the benefits of planting a blueberry bush with your kids, so the entire family can enjoy the fruit from “their” plant. Another suggestion was to help your kids cultivate a “mushroom log” and I have a word of caution about mushrooms later in this column.

But what about trees?

In addition to bushes and groundcover, you might want to consider planting trees with your children.

Yes, trees, for the most part, grow more slowly than bushes, but they have a much higher level of permanence that can be both comforting and instructional to children. Can you, as an adult, imagine the feelings you would experience if you were to look upon a full grown tree and remember kneeling beside a sapling all those years ago with mom or dad? Long after we’ve gone, a tree can still be there as a living monument to happy memories.

And what better way to show the importance of trees in our lives, the way trees take in carbon dioxide and provide life-giving oxygen, than to have a child plant and care for his or her own tree… with some help and guidance from a parent or grandparent, of course.

I’ve heard from people who plant a new tree to celebrate the birth of each new child in the family, creating a row of three or four (or twelve if they’re planning a big family) trees so that each tree, like the child it honors, is at a different state of growth and size. Each child in the family has his or her own tree… a fun idea!

What kind of tree should you choose?

One suggestion would be a Red Maple (Acer Rubrum. This tree is fairly hardy, transplants easily into your chosen location and grows quite quickly, attaining a considerable height over the years. The Fall color is bright crimson and kids as well as adults love the color. If you’re unsure if this (or any other tree) will thrive in your zone and elevation, ask your Garden Center or drop me an e-mail with your area details and I’ll provide the answer.

Another good choice could be a Tidal Basin Cherry Tree. If you’ve every visited Washington, DC during the Cherry Blossom Festival, you know how attractive these trees can be. Whatever you choose, planting a tree with (or for) your children can be a very rewarding experience… for the kids AND for you!

Now, about those mushrooms… I suggested that you consider getting a Mushroom Log Kit so your kids could grow their own ‘shrooms. I should emphasize that I specifically mean the mushroom log kits that are 100% safe and produce excellent, edible mushrooms. Of course, it would NOT be a good idea for children to risk harvesting wild woodland mushrooms. There are some very good mushroom kits available and they’re a heck of a lot of fun!

The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to steve@landsteward.org or mail to: Steve Jones, “The Plant Man”, P.O. Box 686, McMinnville, TN 37111. For resources and additional information, including archived columns, visit www.landsteward.org often.

QUESTION: “I have several bushes, we call them burning bushes, and the top halves of the bushes have dropped all their leaves. The bushes look like they have been dusted with white face powder. They have been like this for 6 weeks and now finally, I see some new growth on the top stems. (We have been having 95 degree days, now only 88.) Do you have a feel for what was happening to my bushes? Thank you for any help you could give me.” – Don Baker

ANSWER: I would say they are under stress from lack of rain. The high temps are also part of the problem. Sometimes a plant will drop its leaves under stress to save itself (there’s nothing like mother nature) then as temperatures come back to normal, it regenerates leaves. Part of where the plant takes up moisture and loses it is in the leaves and so to save itself it drops then regenerates them when things improve.. It’s kind of like us not spending during hard times then spending more during good times!