Thursday 16 January 2014

Creating an outdoor space for the family

The garden is a unique area of any home. It can provide a space for children to play and learn, a safe haven for wildlife and a place to entertain and relax. Each and every garden is different, catering for all ages, and that is exactly what makes a family garden; it caters for every age and every stage of your children’s childhood. Through this article I’ll share with you my thoughts on how to strike the perfect balance between child’s play and grown-up sophistication. 

 In my opinion there are five key factors to take into consideration when creating your family orientated garden: 

1) Colour, lots of primary colours – This can be incorporated through plants, garden furniture or painted walls, fencing or trellis. Bright colours can entice people to venture into the garden, especially children as vivid colours can communicate fun, joy and laughter. 
2) Plants, Your choices need to have the right characteristics to withstand wear and tear, especially if your children enjoy ball games and if you have pets. Flowers such as Choisya ternate, lavender and Stachys lanata are good plants to consider. 
 3) Play area, If you have room to have a dedicated area for your children’s play apparatus I have found it best to place it far enough for your children to think they are away from your eyesight, but close enough for you to check they are playing safely. It can also be a nice idea to have an area for your children to grow their own plants or vegetables. If you don’t have enough space for a dedicated play area, have a search for fold away play equipment that can be easily stored in the shed. 
 4) Entertainment, For me it was important not to allow my children to completely take over the garden. My wife and I wanted an area where we can watch the children play, entertain guests and simply enjoy the garden. I love rattan garden furniture; it softens the look of decking and offers a homely and comfortable area to sit and relax. There is a variety of hardwearing and durable materials to choose from if rattan isn’t for you. I really like Notcutts’ range of wood, rattan and cast aluminium furniture. 
5) Wildlife, To me this is one of the most important aspects of having a garden; this is where children can begin to learn about the joys and importance of gardening. Having a bird feed table or planting specific plants to attract wildlife are simple and easy ways to get your children interested in the garden. Buddleias are a good flower choice if you’d like to attract butterflies for instance. 

 To me these are the most important parts of having a garden; I want an area where my wife and I can relax and entertain guests, I want a place where my children can play and, above all I want to be able to educate and interact with my children. 

I think a pond is a wonderful idea to incorporate into the garden if you want to teach your children about wildlife and how you can attract it to your front door. They draw an abundance of insects, birds and animals, and children love nothing more than identifying each creature that has made a home there. The only thing I would seriously think about, especially if you have young children is a barricade to stop them from accidently falling in. Another great idea is to allow your children to grow their own vegetables or flowers, giving them responsibility. If you want to grow veg that the whole family can enjoy eating I would suggest vegetables that are easy to look after and grow quickly such as runner beans, sweet peas or pumpkins (perfect when Halloween comes around). Growing your own allows you to be in the garden all year round and shows children that there is a lot more to a family garden than playing ball games together and enjoying the seasonal BBQ. 

Lastly, a family garden wouldn’t be complete without an area where you can all sit back, relax and enjoy great food together outside. Create a comfortable space on a patio or deck with garden furniture and a good family-sized BBQ. Decorate and soften the sharp corners of this space with containers. I love adding different heights to create added interest; you can do this by using multiple sized containers – long and thin, round and short, larger than life containers and charming planting pots.

 There is so much that you can do with your garden to make it family orientated and completely unique. My advice to you is to think about how you use the space already and then think about what else you’d like out of the garden too.

*This is written by Mr McGregor, a guest author.

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