Making a Family Garden

from The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner – intelligent garden design software

Need a Family Friendly Planting Plan? Click here

Our garden has grown with us. Our youngest child was born within weeks of moving in and spent the first summer being pushed around an empty plot in her buggy. Heavy snowfall that winter meant that her brothers, bundled up in hats and scarves and huddled together on their toboggan, could be pulled up to the highest point of the garden before sailing back down again. Our newly-built house stood in its newly-laid-to-lawn garden, the blank walls bare and the fences freshly painted.

Geranium Johnson's Blue Family Garden Ideas
Choose easy-going, reliable plants like Geranium Johnson’s Blue

With time, both house and garden settled in, became more lived-in and weathered, more distinctly ours. We dug out our first flower beds and filled skips with all the builders’ rubble which lurked beneath the layer of pristine turf. We planted climbers and watched them clamber upwards, softening the brick façade. A pergola was erected along the path of the toboggan run, which didn’t seem quite so steep and exciting after the age of four.

This was our first real garden and we were virgin gardeners. We gardened by torchlight when the children were sleeping. We devoured gardening books in any spare time and discovered more and more things that we didn’t know we didn’t know. We bemoaned the lack of a computer program which could juggle all our plant choices and come up with stylish planting plans, just for us – but we hadn’t developed it then, so we did everything the hard way, searching out plants to suit our soil type, our windswept location, our colour preferences. And also to suit our children!

Girl planting - ideas for family garden
Give your children their own pot to plant up and take care of

The only poisonous plants I could list were foxglove, deadly nightshade and laburnum. Oh and the evil-sounding monkshood. So, I wasn’t planning to include any of these in my first plant shopping list. But I discovered there were a whole host of plants waiting to attack my unsuspecting family! We had carefully child-proofed the house – cupboard locks, door stoppers, electric socket covers. Now we needed to do yet more research into garden safety.

The majority of garden plants are safe to handle. Many commonly grown plants may cause a mild stomach upset if ingested and/or skin irritation. Some are extremely unpleasant. All parts of the ubiquitous daffodil, for example, can cause severe discomfort if eaten.

Boy and sunflower family friendly gardens
Fast-growing sunflowers are great for family gardens

While our children were small, we made a conscious effort to exclude poisonous and prickly plants from our garden, but also to adopt the strategy of teaching them from an early age not to touch or eat any plant without checking with an adult first. Now that they’re all head-height or above, we can see that they weren’t small children for very long at all. I’ll probably get to claim my lawn back from under the trampoline soon but I’m beginning to feel that day will come far too soon for my liking.

Need a Family-friendly Planting Plan?

The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner makes it easy for you to create a family-friendly garden. The interactive gardening software designs all-season planting plans for your garden, tailored to your garden’s soil and light conditions.

Choose your favourite planting style (for example: cottage, contemporary, Mediterranean) and pick your colour scheme. Select the Family Garden option as an Additional Planting Requirement. The PlantingPlanner will draw up a planting plan, which is suitable for all family members.

Buddleja - family garden ideas
Plant Buddleja for butterfly-counting fun
Cosmos atrosanguineus family friendly garden design software
Try growing chocolate-scented Cosmos atrosanguineus

Tips for Family Friendly Gardens

As well as avoiding plants which are prickly or poisonous, the following notes may be useful if you want to create a safe environment for children to play, which also offers a pleasant and relaxing atmosphere for adults to enjoy.

  • Play areas for young children should be sited close to the house, though older children may appreciate adventure areas which are more secluded.
  • Think about incorporating hiding places, stepping stone pathways and routes around the garden for great Easter Egg Hunts and Hallowe’en fun.
  • If you intend to grow your own vegetables or have regular barbecues, plan these areas in from the start.
  • Think about water safety if you have or plan to incorporate ponds or water features into your design.
  • Don’t forget a patio for relaxing or eating outdoors.
Children in tree family friendly garden
Climbing trees
Child in family friendly garden
Picking buttercups is child’s play
The Weatherstaff Team