Creating a family friendly garden doesn’t mean it has to all be trampolines, cubby houses and sandpits – you can have the best of both worlds with a show stopping high impact design and space for the whole family.
Designing a family garden starts in the same way any garden design begins – you need to make a wish list of what you want in the garden. This should include all the things you can see your family using and all the things you’ve always wanted; a swimming pool, a lawn for the kids to play, an entertaining space, space for the dog to sleep, a BBQ, a veggie patch, the list can go on and on!
The next step is to prioritize this list into what is most important to you, the ‘must haves’ at the top of the list and the ‘would be nice’ towards the bottom of the list. When sorting through your list you need to consider the actuality of owning some of these items, do you have the time to service a swimming pool? Can you spend hours of your week deadheading flowering perennials or watering the masses of garden beds?
Designing a garden for the maintenance you can give it doesn’t have to take the fun or designer edge out of the garden; for example, you can have a lush hardy green lawn, such as DNA Certified Sir Walter Buffalo that doesn’t require a cylinder mower run over it every day to look its best.
Once you have your list you need to fit all these elements into your garden and the best way to do this is with a concept plan. Working to scale draw up all your garden wants in plan view is the best way to make sure everything fits into your space – it is so easy to think it will all fit but actually space might be tight. When adding in spaces that have people moving through them, such as entertaining spaces, or play lawns make sure you give them generous proportions for people to move around them as well as through them. For lawns, which are a necessity in a family garden make sure you make them as big as the design will allow, this will not only give you practical space but a breathing space for the surrounding planting so the garden doesn’t feel too over crowded.
If you are uneasy about working or drawing at scale, it’s a good idea to cut out the spaces in paper and arrange them over a survey or house plan – that way its also easier to move the parts around giving you various layout options.
When planning your garden and layout consider the parts you want to look at and the bits you want to hide or mask. Having an open lawn where you can watch the family play in a relaxing setting requires open sightlines where as utility areas like washing lines and trampolines benefit from a baffling of the sight lines through hedging or screening.
Once you think you have a good layout my advice is to sit and wait … outside that is. There is an old saying ‘the right plant in the right spot can’t die’ and making sure the plants and spaces are in the right spot requires you to do a site analysis of the garden, checking where the sunny spots are (great for lawn and veggie patches), where the wet and dry spots are and any other issues that effect how you will use the space – nobody likes an entertaining space in a wind tunnel.
This site analysis might change your layout a bit but its good to do it after you have had a play around with the shapes and elements of the garden as it gives you options to change rather than being constrained or put off by these effects on the garden.
Once you have the layout you’ll want to apply your finishes to these elements – this is what gives your garden a design edge. With family gardens you need to pick wisely as picking the right product to its usage will make your garden look new for longer. When it comes to paving using natural stone gives warmth and an upmarket feel but it can stain easily so its not ideal in heavy traffic areas, a printed porcelain may be a better fit. Timber adds texture and an earthiness to a design but on the horizontal plain can require excessive maintenance to look its best so a composite may suit your family. For plants you’ll need hardy plants around areas where kids are kicking balls and running amuck and softer flowering plants towards the back of your garden beds where they are protected.
You can apply this ethos to the lawn you will use too – A family lawn needs to be tough and hard wearing, Tif Tuf Bermuda is both of these things and drought tolerant to boot, hence why its being used on many sports fields and stadiums. If you are after a slightly larger leaf, classic DNA certified Sir Walter is a classic, for a reason – because it performs well in a family garden.
The best way to make the most of your family garden is to get out there and use it – designing and building a new garden is something that can take time but making memories in that garden with your family will last forever.