THE MODERN MINT BLOG
Want a child friendly garden? Don’t know where to start?
As many of our friends are now having children, we began wondering how to create a garden that places more emphasis on what they need, rather than us adults.
We visited a community orchard at the weekend and the boys and girls (aged between 6 and 10) were playing ‘it’ around the trees and through the long grass and wildflowers… it was incredibly funny watching them, because they ran around with all the energy in the world while the butterflies (and there were many) swooped along beside them as if joining in!
We asked Georgina, who is Editor of Mumsnet Chelmsford, to share with us her experience of what makes a great garden for children…
“From personal experience (and mine are 3.5 years and 19 months) my ideal garden for children would include: a trampoline sunk into the ground is a must, a garden gate with the bolt and latch as high as they can go, fake grass (who has time to cut the grass with toddlers around??), a specific area for children to do play with water/ sand etc, and very comfy chairs for parents to sit on whilst they watch their children play!”
She touches on many of the common sense issues that go into making a garden for children – things to play with and do, safety, labour-saving solutions (how does anyone find time to cut the grass?) and somewhere for the adults to be close enough to see and know what is happening.
We have noticed, working for clients over the years, that children love trees. They provide shade to sit under, something to climb on or run around and, most importantly, a base to come back to when playing games.
For another view, we found these ideas on a Mumsnet discussion forum…
Lots of grass. Sandpit. Climbing frame. Trampoline. Small ‘themed’ area – using plastic animals, mirrors, stone figures or coloured stones, little pots or a fairy garden.
No bark (because the cats liked it more) and no swing (unless you secure the legs properly.)
We love the idea of creating a miniature ‘themed’ area, almost like a secret garden! Do we agree with having lots of grass though? Perhaps not, as we wrote last week from this post Gardens of Inspiration:
“Pritchard Hill is not a place of exotica; it’s a superb landscape enhanced by form, colour and without a lawn in sight… whereas we think a lawn is essential for young children, Molly’s six – all grown up now – had trees to climb, had thickets to nest in, innumerable seats and hidden trysting corners…”
It is worth keeping this open for discussion because lawns are hard work… and children may actually like more interesting spaces…
Anna, who writes a blog called The Imagination Tree, posted this interesting article about using a part of the garden to grow food with her children.
What is brilliant about this is the amount of skills her girls were able to practise as they dug, planted and watered. At one point ‘Pop’ broke one of the small plants, but quickly learned how careful she needed to be with it. Gardening with children teaches values as much as co-ordination ability.
We have been selling Seedballs at a local market recently – children have been fascinated by how they work (to be fair, so have the adults!) – and it has been pleasing to see a product that can interest children so quickly in the joys of gardening. It is necessary to get them outside and get them involved, the landscape needs people, and the next generation especially, to care about it.
We will do some more research on child friendly garden ideas. If you have any suggestions, please do get in touch on Twitter!
Or for a few books on child friendy gardens (and there aren’t many) see these options below…
Brought By Bike is an excellent website I found last month, where businesses offer their services by (of course) bicycle. Modern Mint and my topiary work is now live on the site offering my topiary services, via bike, to the following two postcodes – CM1 CM2 Now I can imagine I will need to borrow a ladder should anyone have a larger shrub, but most town gardens in the Chelmsford area have a need not just for privacy but to let light into the house… so a balance must be struck when shaping hedges and shrubs to cover both needs. …
Transforming Topiary – a video made for the European Boxwood And Topiary Society by Charlotte Molesworth and I, in her garden. We take a dog topiary and work out how to update it, turning it into a bird. Worth a watch I think, and hopefully useful to you! You can see more of my clipping on the topiary page. Or read my Spring 2021 Topiary Provocation here.
Phillyrea is one of my favourite plants for topiary. I have been using it for quite a few years as a specimen shrub, mostly due to the fact it clips well and has a tough habit – all good characteristics for a topiary plant. It also has a reputation for being an excellent nectar source for bees… Read more about Phillyrea here. Mentioning this to Malcolm Thicke, a market garden historian and writer, he sent me a some photos of topiary and phillyrea mentioned by John Worlidge in Systema Horticulturae from 1682…. incredible! He also mentioned to me that in …