For Science

by longtallyarn

My five-year-olds and I have recently enjoyed Superhero, by Marc Tauss  in which a young man travels back in time to collect plant samples and formulate a chemical that saves the day.

My kids re-imagined that story, this time starring themselves, and the following transpired last Sunday.

They built a space ship in the front yard using their dad’s windmill (dont’ ask) and some curved corrugated metal pieces (old window wells) the handy husband has stashed in the back yard.


I went out to the front yard to see what they were doing with the metal and to make some plant cuttings from the garden.  I found them in the herb area of the mostly-dormant winter garden.  They were pulling leaves off plants and smelling them, a gardening activity I support for its learning value even though it’s hard on my lavender.

The boys informed me that they were exploring another planet and discovering things for their collection.  Twin A asked me to trim a piece off a berry bush growing in my garden.  I judiciously cut off a little dead brown twig that needed to be removed anyway.  “No, I want one of those red stems, a long one.”  He said, pointing to a nice long stem I wanted to keep.

“Are you sure it has to be that one?”

“Yes, it’s for science.” His brother came over and opened his fist to show me some wilty crushed specimens they had already collected.

“Alright,” I said, clipping off the nice branch.  “Only for science.”

He carefully transported it to the shuttle.

They then began to ask about some sticks they had found in the yard.  I explained that I had trimmed down some newly planted apple trees to knee-height.  I told them the idea was to keep the trunk short and the branches low so that we would pick the apples easily, a method endorsed by Ann Ralph, in Grow a Little Fruit Tree.

I showed them a small tree we had planted last year and how it had once been a shoulder-height stick but I had trimmed a few feet off of it.  We could see how the buds had branched out last summer and made 4 nice primary limbs a little below knee-height.  Twin B noticed the little scar left by the pruning.  It had almost entirely healed over in the last year.  I told them we would trim more off it this summer to keep it small and to cause each of the pimary limbs to branch out.

Later, in the back yard while I was pushing Twin A on the swing, my little scientist pointed 25 feet up into the giant oak tree and suggested that someone must have trimmed it right there (the spot where the lowest branches leave the trunk).  Probably not– but it’s a good observation, considering our earlier discussion.

Twin B came over while I was setting my plant cuttings in potting soil and asked me if he could prune off the flower from our Camellia japonica. I said “I don’t think so.  I like looking at it and I want to leave it on the plant.”


Camellia japonica, Governor Mouton.

“Please mom?  It’s for science.”

“Well, only if we can put it in a vase in the kitchen after we cut it for science.”

“OK, and I want to use those.” The pruning shears.

“Not even for science.”




For grandma, a gratuitous gardening and grandchild photo.

And here is a pic of Twin B with one of the daffodils we planted last summer.  They have started sprouting, just like we had hoped!