Designing a garden that is both fit for children and adults is no easy feat. However, with careful planning and some selective zoning, it can be achieved. A young working couple asked me to design them their dream garden that was both child-friendly and sophisticated enough to entertain their friends and family outside. This article details the design and planting choices that Garden Ninja put forward.

I have written extensively about the issues with new build gardens. Whether it be random grids, oddly shaped boundaries, wasted pockets of space or the fact you can’t dig down further than an inch before hitting rubble. This garden was no exception. It was not a child friendly garden at all.

The couple wanted to create a child-friendly garden that was also suitable for entertaining adults in. Space where children would be safe, but adults could feel relaxed with some privacy from neighbours. The gardens soil quality was terrible, they were overlooked and they wanted a separate area to produce their own vegetables away from the main garden. I also had a challenge with a horribly damp corner which I promised I would make into a feature for the children. Me and my big mouth!

child-friendly-garden-before

The garden before the redesign, overlooked and awkward

Solution

The first part of the design was to take the long garden and divide it into zones. Starting at the back of the garden, where the sun hit first was perfect for the adult good life zone of the garden. The couple wanted a greenhouse so I incorporated this into the plans in the adult zone.

plan-of-child-friendly-garden

The finished hand drawn plan

Adult Zone: Starting at the back of the garden, where the sun hit first was perfect for the adult good life zone of the garden. The couple wanted a greenhouse so I incorporated this into the space, Using raised beds meant we could avoid mass excavation of the awful soil and bring in far better organic matter for the beds. The raised beds also help to screen off the zone from the rest of the garden. Clever use of pleached trees gives a contemporary screen to the back fence and some much needed height to the child friendly garden.

Children’s Zone: The majority of the main garden was designed with child-friendly and edible plants. The raised beds gave a clear line between the borders so they could play safely. I kept this part relatively simple so children could kick a ball about or put a slide there if they wished. When designing it’s important not to over stylise a garden when children will be using it, as you risk making it too exclusive for adults. The planting scheme I chose was full of tough and colourful child-friendly plants and could take the odd flying dinosaur or barbie doll strop!

kirsty-shawn-plan-2-3

CAD plan of the child-friendly garden

Entertaining Raised Terrace: This area extended the current terrace lifting it up a step which could then be home to an outdoor dining space. Mirroring the width of the patio doors helped connect this area to the house and keep it scaled. I connected this to the adult zone via some stylised paving slabs that gave a contemporary stepping stone look to the garden.

Dino-zone: In the bottom right was a shady border that was quite damp, the design extended the path around the house to remove the now dead turf. I also added another raised bed filled with ferns and shade loving plants. It featured a giant flat rock that can be used as a children’s play area to play with their toys on. Given the couple’s young child loved Dinosaurs I themed this as the Dino-zone! Even as the children grow up this area will look good in its own right, with lush shade-loving plants full of texture and interest, but makes for a really fun play feature too.

Child friendly garden planting plan

Example plant groups suggested to the couple

Summary

This design was a pleasure to work on, it was a real challenge given limited space, the poor soil quality and the requirements of the family so it worked for adults and children. By using straight lines, zones and splitting the garden sensitively I think the design really works for the couple. Even as the children grows up the garden is ‘adult’ enough to morph into the next stage of their life.

This design is due to be installed in 2017 and I will update this post when the work starts to show you the end result.

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