A book by a local author with fun facts and advice helps kids grow as gardeners

BRINGING CHILDREN A natural sense of discovery in the landscape. Their dig-in-the-dirt, play-with-the-snake antics may not look like “gardening” from the perspective of a parent trying to protect the sunflower seedlings from the stomping footsteps of children, but these early encounters with plants are fertile soil for future growth.

Growing gardeners is serious business. Our world needs us to cultivate tomorrow’s environmentalists. “Grow: A Family Guide to Plants and How to Grow Them”, by local author Riz Reyes, is a powerful and inspiring handbook. Colorful watercolor, gouache and ink illustrations by Sara Boccaccini Meadows on every page of the oversized book make for a delightful reading experience.

It should come as no surprise to anyone who has ever germinated a seed or watched a tree grow from sapling to towering maturity who reads the book like an adventure story. As Reyes writes in the book’s introduction, “Each chapter of this book celebrates the efforts of a few ‘plant heroes’ who have supported our communities and shaped many cultures around the world.”

From “Mint, hero of aroma and remedy” to “orchid, hero of artistry and artistry”, “Grow” digs into 15 plants and fungi with “life-changing powers”. Most of the plants pictured will look familiar to children. But in addition to practical instructions for “Grow Your Own ___,” unexpected discoveries gathered under the heading “A Potted History of ___” increase understanding for readers of all ages. For example, did you know that mint is named after Minthe, a Greek nymph who was turned into a plant by an evil goddess? Or that pumpkins were first grown in the highlands of Mexico nearly 7,500 years ago?

In simple, plain language, the “Meet the Family” section of each chapter introduces botanical nomenclature and outlines relationships, such as how strawberries, apples, and wild roses are all members of the Rosacea – or rose – family.

Growing up in the Philippines on a fruit farm managed by his father, Reyes moved to the Pacific Northwest at the age of 7 and has always maintained a bond with plants and flowers. Today he is a respected working horticulturist as well as a generous teacher and floral designer eager to share his knowledge with others, especially young learners.

As Reyes grew up, books and public television offered a glimpse into the world outside of his family’s immediate circumstances. “It’s pretty cool to be a part of something like writing a book for kids and families,” he says. “I feel very strongly about how plants have the ability to teach us many life lessons.”

Reyes has spent his entire life around plants and hopes his book will encourage continuous learning. “Gardening is about the process, not always the result,” he says. As we all know, gardening is a constant education. “That’s all right,” Reyes encourages. “Because then you just want to learn more and more.”

Along with a solid history and horticulture, Reyes brings a global perspective to everything he does and is committed to inspiring young people, especially people of color, to interact with nature and learn about the environment. “Can you imagine what a beautiful world this could be?” he muses.

Writing about heroes, families and relationships is a powerful foundation for a healthy future. What better place to start than in a garden?

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