A child’s garden is one that should be filled with a sense of whimsy, a few surprises, and lots of learning experiences for them to enjoy. In their garden, they will need to have instant gratification, ways to inspire patience, and little jobs and sights to see for every day. A garden filled with elements to delight and stimulate the senses.
Sight: Colour, colour, colour!
Children are colourful little characters themselves, so surround them with every hue. Plants with colours and fun in their names will make it easier for them to remember and look forward too, like Black-Eyed Susans, Blue Bells, or Basket of Gold. Try to give them the Latin name to try as well, letting them learn even more from the tongue-twisting language of plants. Plant Pink Chimes’ Campanula with its nodding bells or Moonbeam’ Coreopsis with its cool yellow blooms sent straight from the skies. Purple Fountain Grass, Strawberry Candy’ Daylily, and many others are out there for you to choose.
Pansies with their funny faces, and Cephalaria gigantea, commonly called Giant Scabious is a plant straight out of the movie “The Wizard of Oz” due to its large scale. Growing over 6′ tall, with airy sprays of yellow blooms it belongs in a munchkin’s land.
Play upon foliage, especially with trees or shrubs to be planted in a child’s garden, and when Autumn arises the turning colours of the leaves can be an adventure in science. Food crops can be a feast for the eyes as well, with blueberries, cherry tomatoes and everything in between.
The delicious vanilla of Heliotrope, the heady clove-like Carnations, and of course Roses and lilacs are scents that will be forever familiar. Even stinky plants will get giggles, like the malodorous Gas Plant. Young Squash and Zucchini leaves can smell like peanut butter, a favourite to savour over.
Let them crush Scented Geranium and Mint leaves between their fingers to give them whiffs of lemon, apple, and even chocolate.
Teach them how certain smells can repel pests in the garden, and the beneficial effects of companion planting, like using Marigolds or Onions to edge a vegetable bed.
The smell of decay from the working compost pile, the spongy stench that rots and too much water can reek, and how just a single bloom of Casablanca’ Lily can perfume an entire home.
Lessons are out there, sniff them out with your child.
The birds and the bees, the rustling of leaves, and the gusts of wind that cause the seed heads of Ornamental Grasses to sway can be heard in the garden.
When outside stop with your child and just listen, ask them what sounds they hear. Get them to enjoy whiling away their time toiling in the soil, whistling while they work just like Snow White’s dwarves.
Add wind chimes to the garden, or tinkling ceramic mushrooms that are pushed into the ground and clink together when the slightest breeze passes by.
A little toad house nestled in a shady nook for croakers to hide or a bubbling fountain beside a bench or hammock will get little ears in tune.
We got a hammock from Tropilex for Lucas to relax and enjoy the garden. I love that Tropilex donates a minimum of 1% of annual sales to support environmental non-profit organisations.
Not every plant or garden ornament in your child’s garden will need to be felt. Place touchable elements throughout the garden for something that the little darlings can get there hands on to keep them interested.
Let them get their hands dirty by doing the planting themselves, pushing seeds into the damp earth or loosening the roots of plants about to be placed into the soil.
Opt for lots of textured foliage, from grasses to hairy leaves. Velvety silver Lamb’s Ears, Globe Thistle with spiky purple blooms, and the cushiony Irish Moss beg to be touched.
Letting them go barefoot through the flowers, rinsing off their toes with a cool blast of a hose is usually a hit too. Child-size garden tools can be found at most garden centres, and getting your child to work in the garden can give them a lifelong form of exercise and enjoyment.
Fruit, veggies, and herbs should all be included in your design. Line a path with Strawberries for easy pickings, plant Purple Pole Beans on a bamboo teepee, and pick Nasturtium leaves for your garden salad. Even the dandelions can be eaten. Poisonous plants like Digitalis and those that can irritate the skin, like Euphorbias, should be avoided. Mints of all flavours, pumpkins to carry out the season, and berries galore will be morsels to fill up little mouths.
Designing a child’s garden requires you to get down to their level and perhaps become a little young at heart yourself. Have your sense of humour on-hand and let them do some of the actual design themselves. The more active in the design decision making, the more active in the garden they will be…and that’s the whole point…to give them the chance to become a true gardener.