Playscape Garden

Rethinking Play

Family gardens are too frequently filled with little or sparse planting to make way for every garden designers nemesis, a huge trampoline, along with other plastic play equipment. Nature can provide places to play without the need for expensive kit, that children all too frequently grow out of within a few years. In a world that is so fast paced and driven by technology, it is time to take a step back and get the children to be surrounded by nature.

The National Trust created a list of 50 things to do before you are 11 ¾, and guess what is number one on the list? Climb a tree! If we think back to our own childhood, what things really stand out in our minds from our youth – was it playing pooh sticks or building a den?

This garden shows you that it is possible to fit play equipment into a garden without sacrificing on style. The relatively small area had a gentle slope to it, so we designed a composite deck area to sit above the ground, meaning the need for levelling was not required. A bespoke pergola was designed to sit above that would take a range of swings, climbing ropes, bars and net. These were interchangeable and detachable. An oak double seat swing was made to alleviate the need for ‘taking it in turns’. Robust planting with multi-seasons of interest was used to surround the play area, with much of it tactile and offering different textures.

The area was approached by a series of stepping stones from sawn disks of tree trunk mounted on springs. The cut wooden edging between the planting bed and path doubles up as a balance bar. Suspended from the mature horse chestnut tree are quirky hanging ball planters, dangling like giant conkers to add to the fun. A bug habitat was created with a planted roof and bird feeders and insect boxes were positioned on the front of the shed, so the children would be encouraged to learn about and integrate with nature.
Small trees are planted in brightly coloured containers to act as a middle storey canopy whilst being carpeted with perennials and low growing shrubs. The play area is west facing, so captures the afternoon and evening sun - ideal for playtime when the kids are home from school, but if it should get too hot then the kids can hide out in the fabric tent or cool off under the cover of a sail shade.

The colour orange was chosen to add warmth, be stimulating and elating. It was also used as a distraction to trick the user into thinking the space was larger than it appeared. The deck was created with two different angles, again to disguise and lead the eye away from the awkward shaped end of the garden. A series of corten decorative panels were used against the fence line and several living wall panels were created against the side of the shed. Both were used to break up the continuous surface and slow the eye down, therefore artificially extending the site.

As the children age this playspace can be adapted, with the play elements removed the frame is easily converted into a pergola and so can serve as a hangout space for teenagers and adults alike.
Fitting natural looking, play inspiring ideas and tough multi-season planting together into a small space