Garden Features for Children
All special garden features designed for children must pay particular attention to safety. Make sure boundaries are secure with a good gate to keep children from straying on to busy roads. Children need to run about but rougher play, balls and bicycles can create havoc on your lawns and flowerbeds if you do not make room for play. However, an appreciation ofcan start very young if you encourage a child to grow appropriate plants of his or her own.
These can be of simple construction: a shallow hole in the ground, open-jointed brick or paving at the bottom for, the sides supported with wood or brick and the pit filled with sharp sand to a depth of at least 30cm (12in). A lid of chicken wire stretched across timber struts will keep pet animals out of the pit when it is not being used.
Most children love clambering on slides and seesaws and playing on swings. Solid toys like these have the advantage of encouraging play in one area of the garden. A swing can be an attractive feature incorporated in a substantial pergola. An old tree trunk may provide as much climbing and fantasy play as an expensive climbing frame, while a tree house in a large tree offers endless opportunities. Make sure it is securely built and not too high, with good access by stout ramp or rope ladder. Climbing structures should stand on grass which forms a soft landing in case of falls.
PLANTS FOR CHILDREN TO GROW
Most children enjoy raising plants from seed and like to have their ‘very own’ patch of garden. Vegetables such asand , or arouse enthusiasm because they grow quickly and are also safe to eat.
Annuals put on a lot of growth and flower within weeks, which makes them suitable subjects for a child’s short attention span. Good kinds to try include mignonette which is scented and has long-lasting yellow flowers, clarkia with pink, lilac or purple flowers, blue, bright Californian and nasturtium. Chinese lanterns with their orange balloons are also enjoyed and can be dried and used for Christmas decorations.
Plants which change with the time of day or type of weather are also fun. Morning glory is a quick climber and its blue and white flowers open in the morning early and close by mid-afternoon. Daisies will not open their flowers in wet weather.
Growing trees is exciting but remember that from conkers and acorns will grow horse chestnut and oak trees large enough to engulf a small garden. Trees such as birch, alders, crab apples or whitebeam are more suited to most gardens and grow fast enough for a child to measure progress regularly.
Lastly, do remember that some common garden plants are poisonous. Supervise young children and warn older ones not to eat anything out of the garden other than fruit and vegetables.