After reading a wonderful children’s book called Princess Chamomile’s Garden by Hiawyn Oram, I was inspired to create a little garden for my girls in a neglected area of our backyard.
In the book, the little mouse princess helps the gardener and finds the royal gardens “too big” so she plans out something just her size. She goes through her day planning elements her garden must have… “a good hopscotch place…a reading quietly place… bushes for hiding and seeking.”
I took this approach with my girls. We listed out a page full of ideas. We walked around the yard looking for just the right spot.
Here is the list we started with:
We “weeded” down the ideas to a manageable few that would still give the feeling they wanted. And here is our garden!
As a Master Gardener, I love spending time in the garden, and creating this “special” place for my girls truly was special. Plus, I get the benefit of viewing this sweet spot from my kitchen window. I want to share the steps to creating your very own children’s garden.
Mine was from the children’s book. You can check magazines or online sources, but I think if you have a theme in mind, it will become unique to your family and will bring that authentic touch.
Does your child have a favorite fairytale? Story? Animal? Or passion?
Picture them walking into a garden designed after their favorite story. Or maybe a jungle theme. Fairy garden? The possibilities are endless.
We listed out everything even if it didn’t seem feasible. One idea that was out of reach became something on a smaller scale. For example, the girls wanted a real stream with running water. We compromised on a water basin they could fill, dump, and play in.
Walking around the yard also helped us think of more ideas to add and got the juices flowing.
Locate a Space
Looking at our ideas helped narrow this down. One main element they wanted was a “climbing tree” and this limited us to the one good tree for climbing in our yard.
You may have a neglected area that is not being used that will work. Or re-do a place that needs a bit of inspiration. It doesn’t have to be large; a tiny nook can be just the thing for your child! If you have young children make sure it is a safe spot where they won’t get into trouble.
Clear the Space
Next, remove everything from the area to see what you have to work with. Rake leaves, dig up grass (if needed) weed, remove large sticks, stones, prune tress or bushes, etc.. Make sure your children are involved in this process. Our family got our exercise and enjoyed a warm day while hauling loads of old leaves to the composter.
Lay the Foundation Materials
Add fresh soil, sand, mulch, pebbles and or pine needles. We chose cypress mulch (helps with bugs and snakes) and pine needles to distinguish two different areas of the garden. Adding some large rocks gave a forest feeling and the girls can use them as stepping stones or seats.
Add Plant Life
Let your imigination run wild here! “Good-looking” roses and fruit trees were among the requests for our garden. We ended up adding some fruit bushes as this space wouldn’t take any more large trees. And low maintenance pink knock-out roses.
Adding plants that entice the senses are always a good choice. Herbs like lavender, rosemary,parsley, mints (in a pot) as well as veggies and fruits like strawberries, cherry tomatoes, peppers are fun and good for snacking while playing.
Sunflowers, daisies, and any flowers with a lovely scent make spending an afternoon outdoors pleasurable. Don’t forget about flowering shrubs to pull double duty — as a “secret spot”and for the color. Check your local garden center for ideas on what will work in your area.
Create the Atmosphere
Now that your area has the structure and plants you can sprinkle in the fun! Birdhouses, rocks, water fun, benches, wind chimes, or tree stumps are all good accoutrements.
*Tip* Hunt around your yard or local field for items to re-purpose. Saves money and is great for the environment! Items we found: water basin, concrete chalkboard, tree stumps, fishing net, shells, rocks. The girls wanted an “outdoor chalkboard” and we found this old slab of concrete in our yard from our previous a/c unit.
Sometimes it is the small things that really make a big impact on the fun. We added a sturdy table for playing fairies or potting plants.
We added seating for reading and picnics.
Now just add children and you have your garden!
Donna Ashton is the creator & founder of The Waldorf Connection. She spends her days with her husband and twin girls in Coastal Carolina homeschooling & creating programs to support homeschoolers. When she can squeeze out time she loves organic gardening, knitting, yoga baking, bike rides and walks on the beach. You can follow her at her quirky and informative blog.