Sharon Lovejoy on Gardening with Children

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Sharon Lovejoy - Gardening with Children AuthorSharon Lovejoy is an artist, gardener, and green granny who shares the joy and magic of gardening with children (and adults) around the world through her many books.

Sharon Lovejoy’s gardening books include:

JEAN: First, can you talk about the gardening and art influences you had as a child?  

SHARON: My Grandmother Lovejoy was THE most influential person in my life. She taught me by working alongside me in the garden, the kitchen, or at our work table where we did art projects. I never felt as though I was a student, but I always felt like I was on some sort of magical journey with her and I never knew where we would end up.

JEAN: As an artist and a gardener, can you talk a little bit about why and how you think art and gardening go hand in hand?

SHARON: I think that living everything artfully is a great way to approach your life. Whether it is making a beautiful bouquet of spring flowers, or autumn rose hips, or going that extra step and making shortbread in puffy hearts instead of rounds. Approach life, gardening, your home, as a joyful everyday expression of your vision of the way you wish the world could be.

My gardens change constantly. They are always morphing into different forms with different focuses- sometimes on attracting butterflies, other times growing beautiful veggies or fruits, but they are always a part and parcel of living life artistically.

JEAN: I love all of the creative ideas for gardening with children in your books, including the Stepping Stone Gallery in Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots and the Hollyhock Dolls in Sunflower Houses. Do you have any other gardening art ideas that young children might enjoy doing?

SHARON: I really like to go outdoors and pick and create fresh projects in season. For instance: tomato men assembled with toothpicks, caterpillars fashioned from slices of cucumber and carrots, pressed flower cards, paintings en plein air, making pot pourri, and lastly, cooking or assembling fabulous, simple meals from the garden. An art in itself!

JEAN: How do you continue to come up with ideas for new books? What is the whole process like for you-from conception, to planning, to writing the text and creating the artwork, to getting it “out there”?


SHARON: I think that journals are incredibly important. Many times I write notes to myself, have pages of ideas and tiny illustrations beside them.

I find inspiration everywhere, how can you NOT be inspired when you walk outdoors in the morning and look at the miracle of life surrounding you? Ideas have never been hard for me, but sometimes carrying them out is difficult. My whole family has had to pitch in at times to help me create gardens that were too ambitious for me to do alone, or to help me set up for classes, or for lectures.

JEAN: Which book was your favorite to work on and why?

The Little Green Island with a Little Red House

SHARON: The Little Green Island with the Little Red House.

Well, first of all instead of hundreds of pages and illustrations I dealt with 32 pages and about 50 illustrations. But still it took me two years to write and rewrite the book, draw and redraw the illustrations. Then my husband and I worked with manipulating the type fonts so that if I said slither, the font would slither across the page.

Now that is a published book, but one I REALLY enjoyed writing is not yet published. It is a middle-grade novel set in the 1920’s on an island in Maine. I loved working on that novel. It seemed to flow out of my fingers magically. I was surprised every morning when I awoke and my main character (Willow) greeted me in my mind and said, “Boy, are we going to have an adventure today.” I never ran out of ideas or words for that book.

JEAN: What are your top tips for getting young children interested in and started in gardening?

SHARON: Just keep your projects small and child-friendly. Don’t hamper them with lots of chores. Be inventive. Grow crazy veggies, personality flowers, fruits for them to pick. Share the joy, never make them slave in the hot sun. Adventure with them day and night. Go outside with a flashlight to see the garden by moonlight, visit the plants early in the morning when the magical dew sits on their leaves, be a child filled with joy and expectations of wonder.

JEAN: Do you have any favorite children’s picture books about gardening to recommend? 

SHARON: Of course I love The Secret Garden, but who doesn’t? I love The Gazebo by Ethel Pochocki, who based it on my apple tree gazebo in Sunflower Houses. I love The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter by Arielle North Olson, and I adore The Flower Fairies by Clara Ingram Judson, and too many more to name.

I collect old children’s books (if you look on my blog entry about my Mockingbird Studio you’ll see some of my children’s books) and I could probably write about this love of books for pages and pages.

JEAN: Who are the young people in your life now who you share your love of gardening with?

SHARON: I am so lucky to have my grandchildren nearby. Sara May is 5, Moses is 1, Ilyahna is 10, and Asher is 7. They are all like shining stars in my life. They reacquaint me with all of the wonder of childhood, they make me grateful for every minute I have with them, and they teach me lessons whenever we are together.

JEAN: Can you tell us about the new book you are working on?

SHARON: My new book is called The Green Granny Gospels. I consider myself a green granny who is telling the truth about raising children simply, in tune with and with respect for the earth. I want readers to realize that it is always the ephemeral, not the purchased joy that is important, meaningful, and memorable. In my new book I’ll have projects, art, cooking, gardening, celebrations and traditions, and a special section just for Grannies.

JEAN: Sounds wonderful!! Anything else you’d like to add?

SHARON: Nope, just that I love your blog and the work you do. Thank you for your focus on meaningful things. Blessings of spring to you and yours.

Sharon LovejoyJEAN: Thank you Sharon! I have a lot to learn from green grannies like you. Sometimes I need to remember what’s really important-living artfully, sharing the joy of gardening with my daughter, and the fact that a magical adventure can be just around the corner.

For more information about Sharon Lovejoy and her gardens, you can visit her website or her blog.

Or read / borrow / buy her gardening books…


Readers who leave a comment on this interview by Friday, May 16th, midnight EST will be entered into a random drawing for three of Sharon Lovejoy’s books: Hollyhock Days, Sunflower Houses, and Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots. What a drawing!! Giveaway now closed.

Note on photos and illustrations: Three of Sharon’s illustrations shown here (stepping stone gallery, sunflower house, cooking pizza with granny) were photographed by me from Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots. The tomato man and cucumber caterpillar were made by Maia and me with Sharon’s blessing, but they are our own versions.

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  1. says

    Wow, neat interview. I bought Sharon’s book a few months ago just because it was so beautiful. I had never even read about it before and saw it on the shelf of a local bookstore. It is fun to see her on the web now!

  2. says

    what a treat to find this interview with one of our favorite children/gardening authors! Thank you Jean, and thank you Sharon!

  3. Karen says

    What a lovely and timely interview. Thank you so much. My son and I are learning together to love gardening and grow all sorts of things! We just checked out “Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots.”

  4. says

    These illustrations are so beautiful and charming. I have heard of her books many times, but am now inspired to check them out! Thanks so much!

  5. says

    Wow, Jean! How do you get all these amazing interviews??? I really enjoyed this one. What a beautiful, artful woman. I can only hope to be this amazing when I’m a grandma. I think that even if I don’t win these books (fingers crossed), I will have to check them out. They look wonderful.

  6. says

    We’ve been using Roots Shoots Buckets and Boots for years and LOVE IT – THank you for intoducing us to the idea of planting morning glories AND moonflowers together!

  7. says

  8. molly says

    My wonderful mother in law just sent me Roots Shoots Buckets and Boots for mothers day — I am so excited to read it. Thanks to Sharon and thanks again Jean for another great interview. (I swear we are on the same wavelength!)

  9. says

    Oooh, you interviewed another one of my favorite authors! Yeah! We have Roots Shoots Buckets and Leaves and i was just reading it last night. Thanks… life *is* an adventure with my kids.

  10. Jill says

    My mom has been making sunflower houses, inspired by Susan’s books, for years for young friends and cousins, and now she has a grandaughter to play in them! Looking forward to your next book! Best wishes!

  11. Lise says

    Thanks for the chance to win these books! They’d be great for my work with young children. :-) Lise

  12. Amanda says

    what a great interview. i’ve never planted anything before, but we just started our first garden. i’m excited to experience it for the first time with my son. i’d love to win these books! :)

  13. Allison says

    What a great interview! We are just thinking about starting our own container garden here – we grew a few things last summer but I think it will be even better this year.

  14. threesneakybugs says

    Very fun! I’ve been pondering a lot how to get my youngin’ more interested in gardening and this was good inspiration to continue down that path. Thank you for the chance to win such an amazing set of books.

  15. says

    What a wonderful interview! I’m just learning about all these wonderful resources myself and will have to check Sharon’s books out to see which will fit into our life best. I will tell you that there will be some cucumber caterpillars at the girls’ birthday party Sunday, though! Those are adorable!

  16. Heather says

    This interiew is SOOOoooo timely. I just checked out her book, Roots, Shoots Buckets Boots, from the library. I love it. I am trying to adapt her ideas to our AZ garden. I am hoping to win the set otherwise they will be added to my gift list.

  17. says

    Hi Jean :) What a great interview! Thanks for the lovely information and for the generous drawing. Blessings! Q

  18. says

    What a great interview! I love Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots, but haven’t heard of the other two. Hmm, need to head to the library after I’m finished digging in the garden with my boy!

  19. Carla says

    Thank you for the great interview. I’ve been waiting for the right inspiration to start gardening with my kids.

  20. P.A. says

    Great interview! I especially loved the fun things she made out of the foods from the garden!

  21. says

    Gardening is the one area where my hubby is the artful one…he and our boys have really bonded around their plotting and planting ever since they were toddlers…then I get to be creative cooking with our harvest! Wish i knew how to link a photo of my boys in front of our mini-field of cornstalks from last summer.

  22. says

    I only recently discovered your site and am in love with your interview series. Thank you!

  23. julia says

    that was fun.
    i like that she likes your blog. its cool to see 2 artists who are into each others work.
    (and i really like the cucumber caterpillar too!)

  24. says

    I would love to win ANY of her books– we’ll be house-hunting in Corvallis, OR this weekend and the thing I’m most looking forward to is having a YARD to putter in (instead of just our concrete condo patio…)

  25. Marcie says

    Thanks for the interview Jean. I have been enjoying your series of interviews, though I love seeing your art projects too.
    I love Sharon Lovejoy’s creative gardening and her art is wonderful.

  26. says

    Wow I need to make one of those caterpillars! I have everything waiting in the fridge so I have no excuse not to try it tomorrow. We are starting our garden this week if the weather warms up enough.

  27. says

    Another truly inspiring interview. Thank you! We love Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots in my house. We built the Moonflower Tent a few weeks ago, and now we are waiting to enjoy it in bloom! I posted about it here: if you want to take a peek.
    My FAVORITE part of the interview we these words of Sharon’s: “Approach life, gardening, your home, as a joyful everyday expression of your vision of the way you wish the world could be.” What wonderful words to live by! I have already printed them out to put on my inspiration board.
    Thanks Jean and Sharon!

  28. Lora says

    We just planted our flowers this weekend, but we still have our veggies…my boys really enjoy the planting, but it’s the prep work they don’t really like!!! Thanks for this great post and fabulous interview!

  29. Katie says

    What a joy this is — there’s nothing I enjoy more than discovering a great new author. I haven’t read Sharon Lovejoy’s books, but you can bet I’ll be picking them up soon!
    I love the thought about the ephemeral vs. the purchased. Thank you so much for sharing!

  30. Kate says

    I just checked two of these books out from the library and loved them. So inspiring to create fun gardens with the wee ones!

  31. Brynn says

    Sigh. “it is always the ephemeral, not the purchased joy that is important, meaningful, and memorable” I do have to be reminded sometimes. It must have been her book I saw when I was pregnant with my first 8 years ago, and we’ve been building variations of sunflower (palm branch, scarlet runner bean, thunbergia) forts ever since. For they are forts, and castles, not “houses”, when you have 3 boys.

  32. michelle_d says

    Thanks for sharing so many interesting interviews and introducing me to so many great books!

  33. miniaturequilter says

    My kids love to see the vegetables growing in the garden, (have 2 teens and a toddler) My middle teen was in 4H for gardening and this year will be exciting as the little one has his own tomato plant, and has helped daddy plant onions so far. (not warm enough yet to plant the rest) Thanks for introducing us to gardening books, I’m sure my little one would love to look at the pics in them!

  34. georgia75 says

    My first child is on the way, and I am eagerly hoping he’ll enjoy the dirt, the outdoors and growing things just as we do. I’m going to look for these books, to add to my hope-filled collection…

  35. S. Marie says

    My 18 m old daughter was helping her dad dig soil today for a new raised bed. Your post was perfectly timed and I am excited to pick up one of Sharon’s books from the library!

  36. Leigh says

    I really enjoyed the interview and am excited to read Sharon’s books! The kids and I spent all weekend building our first garden, and this week, we all need to decide what to grow. It will be a fun summer!

  37. says

    I have loved Sharon’s books since my days as a teacher and now as a parent. They are a plethora of information and hands on, get dirty fun for kiddos and parents both.

  38. catherine says

    Oh, my goodness! What a lovely interview. Thank you for introducing me to Sharon Lovejoy. I will certainly be ordering her books for my son and me. We’re gearing up to plan our first garden.

  39. andreamcmann says

    Ooh! I’d love to have this! :) My greenbeans growing on my windowsills are bearing fruit (or should I say vegetables?). My son, who is notorious for his hatred of any green food, ate a fresh green bean yesterday, and he liked it! :) The wonders of gardening never cease!

  40. Christina says

    Great interview, as always. I just discovered Roots, Shoots . . . and love it! I’d LOVE to have our own copy. Thanks so much!

  41. says

    So beautiful. Thanks for the interview and for giving us a peek into Sharon Lovejoy’s life. It is fascinating to me to learn about the author behind the books.

  42. says

    WE have had Roots Shoots Buckets and Boots for years and have enjoyed so many little gardening projects… what a joyful surprise to open up this blog today and meet the woman behind the Magic… thank you!

  43. Sandy says

    I just borrowed Roots Shoots Buckets and Boots from the library and it is now in my wishlist. Thanks for the great interview.

  44. says

    Don’t enter me in the drawing because I already have the books, but I just wanted to say thank you to Sharon for creating them and living the life she does. She has been such an inspiration!!

  45. Karrie says

    Well, even if I don’t win this drawing, I’m definitely going to check out her gorgeous books. Thanks for introducing me to her work, Jean:)

  46. Melissa Martin says

    I’m a longtime fan of Sharon Lovejoy’s work and a new fan of The Artful Parent blog. Thanks to you both for this interview and for inspiring me.
    Melissa M

  47. says

    I have been a fan of Sharon’s since the early nineties. I have all of her gardening books and will look for The Little Green Island next and look forward to the Gren Granny book. Great interview, thanks.

  48. aimee says

    I just checked out 2 of Sharon’s books and love them. I will be so sad to bring them back to the library. I love the fact that you interviewed her and asked her some of the same questions I would have asked.

  49. Laura says

    Thank you for the peek into the books and the artist’s thoughts. We just planted a flat of impatiens today–watering was the most fun for my little one. We’ll have to check out some of Ms. Lovejoy’s ideas.

  50. annette says

    We just discovered this wonderful author, via our library, and would absolutely love to win one of her magical books. Thank you for this interview and all the insightful bits and photos — even more incentive to try the projects!

  51. Morgan Rose says

    We just checked out Sunflower Houses and even my teenage daughters (who don’t like anything) loved it! Thanks for a great interview.

  52. dianne says

    great interview – as always! your questions are very insightful. we love to get out in the garden as a family and these books sound like they would have some wonderful ideas for our 3 year old. thanks!

  53. Lisa says

    I checked out roots, shoots….my duaghter is soon to be five and has been gardening for about 6 months. we can’t wait to make our sunflower house!

  54. Kathie says

    Thank you for interviewing Sharon. I am always on the lookout for good quality books and authors.

  55. WendyZ says

    I recently purchased “Roots, Shoots, Buckets Boots” and was so inspired! My 3.5 year old has always loved gardening, and it’s so important for her to have her own success with it!

  56. Sharon Gilbert says

    I have loved Sharon’s books since I bought Sunflower Houses years ago when it was first published by Interweave Press and my daughter had her first child. Well that child just graduated from the Univ. of MD and my daughter now has a four year old who had his first garden, begun by Dad, last summer complete with towering sunflowers and a fish pond in a barrel. My daughter told me, “Mom, you gave us two copies of that book!” I said, “No problem just give it to your first grandchild.” Thank you for a beautiful interview and an inspiring life.

  57. says

    […] of a few great gardening books and recently I became a giveaway winner of 3 of them, thanks to The Artful Parent. Sunflower Houses, Hollyhock Days, and Roots Shoots Buckets and Boots are just a few of her […]

  58. Onna@toddlercraft says

    What a great interview. The illustrations are beautiful! I have never read her books but I am going to look for them now. I love the cucumber catepillar!! My son might actually eat cucumbers if he saw that!!

  59. Sybil Brun says

    Wow, such a fantastic interview! Sharon Lovejoy seems like such a delightful and lovely person and I look forward to reading her books someday! :-)