Family-Friendly Gardening How to Make Green Spaces into Play Places and Preserve the Peonies in the Process

Article excerpt

CREATING A FAMILY GARD TYPE:MAGICAL OUTDOOR SPACES FOR ALL AGES

By Bunny Guinness

Abbeville Press, 168 pp., $29.95 'Creating a Family Garden" author Bunny Guinness designs gardens with children in mind. For anyone who as a youngster was scolded for trampling Mother's peonies, this book is a welcome surprise. Guinness urges that children be given a stake in designing outdoor spaces, and encourages adults to give special thought to child-friendly features in the garden. In pages of lavish photographs and colorful plans, she explains how to build sand pits, tepees, playhouses, treehouses, and wading pools. She addresses safety issues and points out that gardens can provide one of the few safe areas for children to play in with less supervision. For parents who have plenty of inventiveness but not a lot of time or money to build fancy structures, Guinness's book touches on the qualities in gardens that can enhance children's play. These include a sense of whimsy (think funny animal sculptures), privacy (secret hiding places), engineering skills (a chance to build things), smaller scale (child-sized garden implements) and creativity (imaginative games). Creating a Family Garden: Magical Outdoor Spaces for All Children doesn't neglect an adult gardener's need for a space to entertain and relax in. Guinness also offers plans for outdoor dining areas, patios, and brick barbecues. While her focus is mostly on structures to enhance the garden, she does include a section on suggested plant types, and the photographs demonstrate her garden-design ingenuity. The elaborate plantings surrounding one of the tree houses is worthy of the Swiss Family Robinson. Guinness suggests that children's attention be deflected from more delicate plants by creating a separate, secluded space where their activities can be camouflaged by groupings of hardy trees and shrubs. Another tactic is to plant dwarf hedges in front of flower beds to shield tender plants from wayward balls. She emphasizes that the garden's features can change as the children grow up. A sand pit made with a plastic liner can metamorphose into an ornamental pool. …