What makes a garden ‘good for kids’? This is something I’ve been pondering since becoming a parent almost two years ago. Disclaimer: this isn’t going to be a post on ten steps to making your garden child friendly. It’s more of a personal musing on what value our tiny urban garden could have to our little boy. The received wisdom on designing a garden with kids in mind is focussed on removing hazards, ensuring your child is contained, and finding sympathetic ways of incorporating play equipment into the space. This all assumes that you have a large enough area to be concerned about these things. With a garden which is less than 30m² there isn’t enough space for running around and playing games, let alone accommodating swings and trampolines!
London is a city in which I have spent plenty of time over the course of my life, but it’s been a couple of years since my last visit. This recent sojourn was prompted by the birthday of one of my oldest and dearest friends, providing a rare opportunity for a day out unencumbered by parenting responsibilities. There are few things I love more than walking around a city – navigating your way through its streets you really get to experience the details and fabric of its life. So, before I joined up for an afternoon of craft beers, I took the chance to have a meander. The area around Kings Cross, which I remember being fairly grotty in the past, has been undergoing major redevelopment. It is now awash with smart new office and apartment buildings, surrounding public squares with trickling fountains, interspersed with designer shops and high-end restaurants. However, the place that I wanted to seek out was the antithesis of these symbols of modern living.
18 months ago, shortly after the birth of my son, I wrote a blog about my intention to redesign the planting in our tiny back garden. The best laid plans of mice and men! Of course in the general melee of life, parenting and the dreaded return to work, little of consequence occurred during 2018 to progress these grand plans. I did give some thought to the plants I might potentially like to use and did a spot of research into their characteristics and preferred conditions which at least helped to narrow things down. Quaint notions of fully developed planting plans however never materialised.
When the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) announced that after many years of searching for a suitable site it would be establishing a new garden in the North-West of England, I was over the moon. Despite having been a member for several years I have never actually visited an RHS garden so the prospect of having one on the doorstep, relatively speaking, was cause for celebration. The news that the RHS was offering members the chance to tour the Bridgewater site while under development was an opportunity not to be missed. So earlier this week myself, and my garden designer friend of The Cheshire Garden, headed off up the motorway to see what was in store, and we were not disappointed!
After a none too subtle hint (i.e. an email with a url) one of my Christmas presents was a book called ‘Green Escapes: The Guide to Secret Urban Gardens’ by Dr Toby Musgrave. It was published earlier this year and I’d clocked it in a gardening magazine and filed it away as a potential giftette for when the question came. It seemed like suitable gift material – something you want but somehow cannot justify buying for yourself. Now I have my sticky little paws on it I thought I’d share a few initial thoughts on whether it meets expectations.