Happy kinderGARDEN Thursday all! Today I have the distinct pleasure of welcoming back our esteemed in house garden designer Susan from the Blue Planet Garden Blog. Not only is she a professional garden designer but she is also one of our judges here at the kinderGARDEN contest...so put on your listening ears kiddies!
I create all kinds of gardens for all kinds of people, and my favorites to design aren’t necessarily those with the biggest budgets or the most innovative features. Instead, I’m most inspired when I’m working on a garden that I know will truly be USED, and families with young children almost always fit that description. While there aren’t any rules for designing a garden that includes kids, here are a few guidelines to keep in mind:
A new garden can be expensive, and features that work for families with young children, older children or no children at all make the best investment since a family’s dynamic changes over time. A design strategy I’ve used more than once is what one of my clients dubbed The Racetrack Design, a winding DG path that circles the lawn and weaves in and out of planting beds. For adults, a path like this is a wonderful way to enjoy the garden, while for kids (and dogs) it’s a continuous racetrack, and perfect for wagons, tricycles and games.
Keep it Safe
Are there poisonous plants at a level where very young children can reach them? If you’re not sure, Google “poisonous plants” and all sorts of lists will pop up. Don’t get TOO carried away; many plants rely on some level of toxicity as a natural defense mechanism and for the most part, small children are unlikely to randomly stuff flowers and leaves into their mouths. I try to avoid plants that I know will have an inherent appeal for the curious, such as those with berries that can upset stomachs (like Hollyberries) or ones with sticky sap that may irritate skin or eyes (like Euphorbias). If your child is allergic to bees, be judicious in adding bee-magnets like lavender and catmint close to play areas. To me, a garden isn’t complete without a water feature, but standing water is a big no-no in a garden where small children might play unsupervised. This photo shows a custom fountain I designed for grandparents who regularly babysit for their granddaughters. There’s no above ground reservoir for a child to fall into, but the grandkids quickly learned that a few well placed stones diverts the water from a gentle trickle to a much splashier spray, and they love playing around it on hot days.
Segregate AND Integrate
This photo shows a recently installed children’s play space for one of my favorite clients.
Adjacent to the play structure is a flagstone patio laid out like a giant flower, reached via a miniature maze and half hidden from the rest of the garden. Adults are “invitation only,” and the area is big enough to host different activities as their daughter gets older. On the other hand, we decided NOT to include a special children’s garden. Baby Eme’s mother is a passionate gardener, and she already likes to follow her mom around the garden with an empty watering can and pretend to water. The idea of having a 100% separate children’s garden seemed counter-intuitive to encouraging gardening as a shared family experience. As she gets older, Eme can decide with her mom what to plant in any part of the garden.
And finally, enjoy your garden! If your kids see you spending time outdoors, they won’t need any special additions to enjoy it with you.
So What have you and the kids been up to this week?