Designing a Patio with Children in Mind

A patio that is going to be used by children needs careful thought, at the planning stage, so that it can lead a useful life throughout the day and, eventually, revert to being purely ornamental as the family grows up. With play in mind, the basic structure of the patio should offer as few hazards as possible. It might be better, for instance, to provide access by a ramp instead of shallow steps to the garden to facilitate use of tricycles and other wheeled toys.

If the patio is large enough to take it, it would be a good idea to provide one corner especially for the children. If enough play space and attractions are concentrated in this area, it may reduce the temptation to run wild in the more precious ornamental areas. Storage could also be built along one wall to park toys that could be kept permanently out of doors, to avoid having to trundle them into the house.

When you are providing facilities for the children, use a little cunning and site them so that they can be adapted, later on, for other uses. A sand-pit could be built into the patio itself by leaving out some of the paving in a square, rectangular, or even free-form shape. (If you do this, line the bottom of the pit with un-mortared bricks to allow drainage.) Then, when the family have grown up it can be turned into an attractive ornamental pond, or a bed for flowers or herbs. If the sand-pit is of a regular shape and not too large, you could build a simple box-like structure to go on top of it when not in use. This would not only keep the rain and family pets out, but would act as a simple seat, made more attractive by addition of brightly coloured cushions. A sand-pit can also make a convenient spot to site the holder for a whirlygig washing line, so that its pole can be slotted in and out when needed.

If the children have their own corner, it’s a good idea to encourage their interest in plants at an early stage by giving them some growing space of their own. Packets of annual flowers, generously sprinkled on the soil, covered and watered, usually oblige, but children also enjoy growing novelty things. The sensitive plant (Mimosa pudica) can be grown as an annual (it won’t survive a winter out of doors) and its leaves fold up, instantly, if you touch them. The squirting cucumber (Ecballium elaterium) literally fires its seeds at you as if from a gun. And gourds, decorative squashes and the loofah plant are all interesting curiosities for children to grow. On the edible front, radishes grow with amazing speed, provided they are well watered, and vegetable spaghetti (a marrow with flesh that looks just like spaghetti when you cook it) is well worth trying. Tiny tomatoes like ‘Gardener’s Delight’ are also fun for children, as are alpine strawberries, used for ground cover.

For the rest of the patio, it’s best to plant a framework of trees and shrubs on and around it that are relatively child-proof. But this doesn’t mean that you have to give up flowers: viburnums, olearias, philadephus, and shrub roses will give you an attractive range of flowers and foliage, while shrubs with coloured foliage such as the purple-leaved hazel (Corylus maxima ‘Purpurea’), the golden elder (Sambucus nigra ‘Aurea’), or the smoke tree (Cotinus coggygria) will provide colourful focal points all through the summer. With a boisterous family it is better to legislate for some degree of accidental damage and plant multi-stemmed trees such as birch (Betulus), alder (Alnus), or hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) so that even if part of the tree is injured, the rest will survive to form an attractive clump.

PLANTS POISONOUS TO CHILDREN

Aconite, aquilegia, box (Buxus), cotoneaster, daphne, beech (Fagus sylvatica), hellebore, iris, ivy (Hedera), juniper (Juniperus), laburnum, oleander, and Pulsatilla are a few among many.

26. July 2013 by admin
Categories: Featured, Garden Management, Top Tips | Comments Off on Designing a Patio with Children in Mind

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