Living in perfect harmony
With so many competing demands on a family garden, designing a space to suit all can be a challenge. Garden designer Justin Greer has some tips…
Creating a garden that meets the requirements of every member of the family can prove troublesome, particularly in smaller gardens. There might be a range of needs including seating and entertaining areas, play equipment, spaces for pets or even actual gardening! Coupled with this is that as children grow their requirements will change so there is not one hard and fast solution that will last forever and the garden needs to be able to evolve over time.
Start by asking everybody in the family what they would like in the garden. Making a list will help identify requirements and allow for some realistic prioritisation. In most families there is the common requirement of wanting somewhere to relax or sit and eat together and this is a good starting point. We often like to sit in a sunny spot outside the house but sometimes these are mutually exclusive.
Trampolines can be sunk to help hide them and if carefully sited the hole can be used for a fire pit or teenage hideaway once the trampoline is no longer required. If there is space, larger play equipment may be hidden or screened towards the end of the garden but this may depend on the age of the children and the parents’ requirement to be able to keep an eye on them. Or look at creating space for imaginative play where temporary dens, tents or shelters can be built or nature encouraged by introducing a log pile or natural pond – although not for very young kids.
There is no rule to say that a seating area has to be directly outside the house and there is often an argument for placing one towards the rear of the garden if that enjoys sun for most of the day. How close, or not, to a play area might also be a factor in positioning the main seating area. If space is an issue, look for comfy seating that works for dining and relaxing. Outdoor kitchens, bar areas, pizza ovens and barbecues all contribute to creating a space where the family can congregate and spend time together. Be creative with lights for atmosphere. Garden rooms are also useful – they can provide a grown-up space or be used as a playroom. Play equipment such as a trampoline or a tower with swings and a slide are popular but they can take up a large amount of space and, in all but the largest gardens, are permanently on view. If you think they will have a great deal of use they can earn their place for the years they are required.
The last word must be for the plants. If balls and pets are going to be common intruders in the borders then delicate plants are best placed elsewhere. Evergreen shrubs such as choisya ternata, viburnum tinus and camellias are tough, resilient and add some colour through flowers and foliage. Raised beds may offer more sensitive plants protection from marauding children and pets and can help separate entertaining areas from play areas.