How can you include a learning and creative play in even the tiniest garden?
It’s rare that any garden is designed purely for show, but how do you design for the modern family without compromising on aesthetics? The answer is to consider the entire household’s needs, appreciating that they will change over time and, therefore, so must the garden. Success is achieved by melding the demands of adults, children and pets seamlessly so that the finished design feels harmonious and adaptable rather than contrived and compartmentalised.
Over the last ten years, Garden Club London has answered briefs for several family gardens, building considerable expertise in this area. With each project, they’ve listened carefully to their client and devised clever ways to ensure the finished design works for them now and in the future. So whether a family member suffers from hayfever or has a yen to grow their own loofas, a crafty solution has already been thought of.
The art of family-centric design is sensitively demonstrated in a small garden close to Clapham Common. The focal point is a woven willow den constructed around sleek silver birches that emerge magically through the framework. Timber stepping stones lead inside, arriving at a zig-zag of guttering that children love to use for water play. Low level lighting makes this a fun and safe place to hunker down after dark. Over time the natural willow will weather away, leaving a metal structure covered in fragrant star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides).
Fixed wooden benches keep the garden’s lines clean and simple whilst providing the family with ample space to gather and eat. Beneath, there’s storage for toys. A square coffee table conceals a sandpit. The mud kitchen is not fixed in position so that when the children are older it can be replaced by more seating or an additional planter. A conventional lawn would be unmanageable in a garden this small so the family takes advantage of the adjacent common for ball games and picnics. All the needs of the family have been understood and incorporated, without segregation or concessions to attractiveness.
How ‘safe’ to make a family garden is a consideration many clients grapple with. On one hand, they may cherish the security of an enclosed space, but on the other want an area where children can learn something about the risks and rewards of outdoor life.
On the other side of Clapham Common can be found a garden that embraces adventure and exploration with the inclusion of a sleek metal slide, firepit and bespoke playhouse. Again, an overwhelming sense of contemporary style prevails but the whole family are able to enjoy this garden equally and on their own terms.
If a play feature is so overwhelming that it’s impossible to disguise, the best option is to make it a feature. In one tiny garden, a trampoline is sunk into the ground and the protective net is removed when not in use to minimise its visibility from inside. When the trampoline is no longer needed, the central ‘glade’ will be repurposed as a seating area shaded from the sun by a canopy of mature tree ferns.
What these three projects show is that a design need not be compromised to meet the needs of a modern family. Planned thoughtfully, a garden can grow and develop with them, providing many years of happiness and enjoyment.