The COVID-19 rainbow of hope first reached Westerners’ eyes in Italy. Photo: Jennel Letizia
Here’s a COVID-19 project you could work on with your children or grandchildren: planting a rainbow garden.
Already back in February in China, the rainbow had become a symbol of hope in the time of confinement due to the coronavirus. This spread to Italy, where soon confined children everywhere were drawing rainbows and putting them up in their window or balcony with a message of hope like “andrà tutto bene” (everything will be fine). This has spread around the world and hand-drawn rainbows with words often written by awkward young hands can be seen everywhere from Copenhagen to Perth.
With so many schools closed and interdictions for children to play with their friends that may last through the summer, why not extend the idea and plan and plant a rainbow garden to help distract them?
Here are some ideas!
Reader Lina Bertrand sent in this photo of her rainbow arrangement of houseplants.
Gather the kids and go through that pile of old pots in your basement or tool shed. Pick out those in rainbow colors and get out a big bowl of soapy water to wash them clean. Then pot up your houseplants (maybe you could divide a few or take cuttings of others to fill a few more pots). Now, set out your “rainbow houseplant garden” for all to see. Now one will blame you if you take and share a few selfies of your exploit!
💡Quick Tip: You can’t find enough colored pots? Simply paint plain ones in rainbow colors using any leftover paint you have on hand!
Did you know some vegetables come in rainbow colors?
‘Bright Lights’ Swiss chard. Photo: http://www.susansinthegarden.com
Think Swiss chard with its multicolored stalks.
Photos: National Garden Bureau & Park Seed
And beets and radishes come in a wider range of colors than you thought.
‘Rainbow Mix’ carrots. Photo: outdoorareas.blogspot.com.tr
You can even get quite a rainbow of shades with carrots!
If you grow a mixture of tomatoes and peppers, you can also come up with a wide range of shades.
There are even strains of hot peppers that produce a rainbow of colors on just one plant, such as ‘Numex Easter’, an All-America Selections winner.
Plus there is ornamental corn that produces a rainbow of colors on each cob. (Do note that rainbow corn is not sweet corn: it can be grown for popcorn or flour or dried for use as a decoration. It’s not designed for eating fresh off the cob.)
You can even grow rainbow potatoes by sowing different colors of seed potato.
Growing Rainbow Vegetables
Buy mixed seed packets (or individual varieties, then make your own mix) and have the kids help you sow them indoors (tomatoes and peppers) or directly in the garden (Swiss chard, beets, radishes, corn and potatoes). It’s so simple!
Growing rainbow vegetables is an easy project that will keep kids’ interest until harvest. In many cases, that means over much of the summer! And growing their own vegetables often can help convince picky children to accept to try new vegetables: it’s hard to say no a vegetable you grew yourself.
Don’t disappoint the kiddies by buying so-called “rainbow tomato seeds”, though, based on an ad with a photo showing vastly different tomato colors in the same fruit cluster. Such photos were Photoshopped. Yes, tomatoes do come in a wide range of colors, but all the fruits on a single plant will be just one shade.
Likewise, “rainbow rose seeds” will give you nothing of the sort. Only by manipulating the colors in a photo of a rose will you get anything like the above flowers.
To avoid this kind of disappointment, buy your seed and plants from a reliable seed house or nursery: they won’t knowingly sell you trumped-up material.
A Rainbow of Mixed Flowers
The simplest way of growing a rainbow garden is to sow a pack of mixed seed in a flower bed. That won’t, of course, give you successive rainbowlike bands of color, but you will get a rainbow of shades! I’m sure any child would be proud of such a rainbow garden … and it’s so simple to prepare! Just clear an outdoor space, sow the seeds and water. The seedlings will be up within days and your rainbow of color will follow about 6 weeks later and last the whole summer.
You can also create a rainbow garden of mixed flowers in the shape of a rainbow if you have the space, sowing mixed annuals in an arc. Another child pleaser that requires no special planning!
A Rainbow Garden with Bands of Color
But of course, if you want to really create a rainbow with bands of color, you can do that too. Buy seed in the individual colors of your choice. At sowing season, clear a garden space and trace a wide arc in the soil. Now sow the seed in successive bands all around the arc. Of course, if you have the budget for it, you could buy trays of annuals and simply plant them out according to the rainbow shape.
💡Quick Tip: Keep it simple: a three-color rainbow is easier to pull off than a four-, five- or six-color one… and takes up much less space!
Annual Flowers for a Rainbow of Colors
Below is a selection of good old-fashioned annuals of modest height that bloom all summer and all can be readily grown from seed … with a little help from an adult.
All the varieties below will adapt to “average garden conditions”—a sunny garden in moderately rich soil that receives regular watering—and so can be combined in whatever way you wish.
Blue: ageratum, browallia, Chinese forget-me-not, cornflower, edging lobelia, love-in-a-mist, pansy
Pink: ageratum, alyssum, browallia, cornflower, impatiens, edging lobelia, love-in-a-mist, dwarf nicotiana, pansy, petunia, portulaca, dwarf snapdragon
Red: cornflower, dwarf dahlia, edging lobelia, impatiens, love-in-a-mist, dwarf nicotiana, nasturtium, pansy, petunia, portulaca, dwarf snapdragon, zinnia
Purple: alyssum, cornflower, dwarf dahlia, impatiens, edging lobelia, dwarf nicotiana, pansy, petunia, portulaca, dwarf snapdragon, zinnia
Yellow: calendula, California poppy, dwarf dahlia, marigold, nasturtium, pansy, portulaca, dwarf snapdragon, zinnia
Orange: calendula, California poppy, dwarf dahlia, marigold, nasturtium, pansy, portulaca, dwarf snapdragon, zinnia
White: ageratum, alyssum, browallia, cornflower, dwarf dahlia, edging lobelia, impatiens, dwarf nicotiana, pansy, petunia, portulaca, dwarf snapdragon, zinnia
No garden space? You can also grow a rainbow garden of annuals in pots on a balcony or deck.
A Leafy Rainbow Garden
You can also create a rainbow garden using annuals with colored leaves. I suggest simply using coleus (Plectranthrus scutellarioides), as they are so easy to grow from seed and offer such a wide range of colors.
Here’s what to do:
Buy a pack of mixed coleus seeds and sow them indoors. By the time it’s time to plant them out, the young plants will already be showing their final color, so just plant them in a series of unicolored arcs to create your rainbow. It couldn’t be easier!
Help make this season of confinement whizz by for your children and grandchildren with these ideas of rainbow gardens.