THE MODERN MINT BLOG

Jun26

Child Friendly Garden Ideas

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.

Daisy Lawn - ideal for children?
Daisy Lawn – ideal for children?

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.

Trees are important?
Trees are important? Notice the bench & bean bags beneath this Indian Bean Tree

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.

Seedballs - the BEE MIX!
Seedballs – the BEE MIX!

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…

Apr28

Phillyrea From 1682

Worlidge Phillyrea

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 …

READ MORE

Apr27

Kites And Strings Podcast – Topiary In The Garden

kites and strings podcast

Kites and Strings is a podcast about creativity, hosted by US-based Stephen Ploum and Catherine Chinnock. Back in March they asked me to come onto their podcast and talk about topiary, my past writing plays, the stand-up I did and how creativity can fit into your life. The Kites and Strings podcast was great fun and Stephen and Catherine are fantastic hosts. Listening back today I am surprised by some of the ideas I talked about (somehow I even started to describe a future where I run a ‘School of Creativity’ by the sea…. where did that come from?!) but it …

READ MORE

Apr27

Robinia – Pruning A Beautiful Tree For Small Gardens

topiary Robinia

Robinia is often forgotten – by me, actually! – when thinking of plants for topiary. But when I work on it I do love it, brittle and soft as the wood is if you climb into it. But that danger of snapping a branch with a heavy step and falling out of the tree aside, I love it for the dappled light it allows into the garden space. Robinia Near The Sea Below is a Robinia I have gently clipped over the last few years, down near Leigh-on-Sea in Essex. The tree was large when I arrived, although it is …

READ MORE