Gardening with Children

Gardens at night, - Lumiere

I love the Christmas lights at this time of year, especially when they are used to highlight trees.  So when I found out to be that the RHS gardens at Wisley, were going to be putting on a celebration of light, I put it on my list of pre-Christmas event to visit.

The blurb for lumière reads

This Christmas leave a busy world behind, and allow us to tell you what we have in mind.Let us take you by the icy hand,and lead you to a garden winter wonderland; where spectacular lights cast a magic glow, and trees above are lit up from below. Follow the trail where lights lead the way, and enjoy a radiant end to your day.


Continue reading "Gardens at night, - Lumiere" »

Children and water in the garden

Children, - particularly little ones, are drawn to water in a garden, For anyone that's been on a day out to any parks or gardens, you know that feeding the fish or watching a waterfall are a little ones favorite activities.


(William watching the waterfall in the RHS Wisley Glasshouse)

But as children are drawn to water, - that also means that there is danger that they will fall in, and not be able to get out. - I've unfortunately heard enough horror stories in my time about toddlers walking into swimming pools or ponds, (The horrifing stats are that about 200 under 5's have been drowned since 2002) that I wouldn't recommend to any family that they have an open pond in their garden, but there are other options that make a garden water feature safe for children and you to enjoy.

If you have a small pond, and want to have fish, then my recommendation is to use a pond cover. - This can be a cage above the water, but in my experience, this spoils the view, and makes tending to any pond plants or marginals very difficult. - This photo shows the recommendation I came up with for one of my clients gardens

This grid is installed just below or above the water surface and is designed to take the weight of a child

it's by a uk company called safapond

If you don't already have a water feature in your garden, - my suggestion would be to add the sound of running water without having the standing water, by using an underground water sump and a pump to create a fountain. - We used to have one of these in our last garden, with a large stone for the water to trickle out of, and pebbles surrounding it, - I couldn't find a photo of this (typically), but there are now lots of different types of kits sold that you can easily create this effect from.


This photo is taken from a website called  which has a huge range, for all budgets.

My favourite of this type was one I saw at the Malvern show recently, - these are made to order, and the copper will weather to a lovely green grey.


This one is by Robert Peters and his company is

The other thing that you can do is to have a fountain coming out of a wall, or a stream/watercourse that disappears into an underwater sump, so that you can get the sound without the pool, and without the danger.

Successful gardening day out with Children

Being fortunate enough to live just down the road from RHS Garden Wisley, my son has been trailed around the garden there, on average about once a week since birth. As he's now a big school boy, we havn't been so much recently, but last summer's visit to their new attraction obviously had a lasting memory, as all this week, he's been asking to visit the Maize maze. - Here's the story of our morning out in pictures (mostly taken by him)
10000 bedding plants were used to create this carpet bedding picture of a peacock.

We collected our map and garden explorers trail sheet from the entrance and followed the pirate Maize maze this way signs through the garden.
The Maize maze is planted on the site of the old Wisley Greenhouses, - a nice big flat area, which lends itself wonderfully to this. - The Pirate theme, was added to by various dead end (me hearties) signs, - Parrots, and Pirate Scarecrows on the way, before we finally (after a good trek) found our way to the centre, - a very good design of maze, and very tall thick maize plants which meant that every now and again, you couldn't even see the pirate ship we were heading to.

But we reached the centre

As William is now reading, he had spotted on the map that there was a new play area, - so we headed in that direction through the fruit
His favourite fruit - pears - here trained on cordons

We were both impressed with the amount of fruit on the standard redcurrants

We watched the gardeners picking the blueberries, and found purple peppers, cucumbers ("they havn't got prickles on like our ones!") and aubergines("yuk") in the polytunnel. We then went through the fruit trail fields and found the yellow raspberry mentioned on the trail, and I felt very proud that my figs were looking bigger and riper than theirs.

I managed to stop William scrumping any blackberries, and then he raced me down the Piet Oudolf borders (no contest, he won by a mile) to the play area. Wild at Wisley- This is an area out in the Arboetum past the new glasshouse, which hardly anyone gets out to, - so it's a perfect area to put over to kids, and they have created some great features with carved logs, and dips in the ground.

There was also a grass spiral, and this balance trunk amused William, as he pretended there were crocodiles underneath


  We then did some more of the trail, finding the largest and smallest possible leaf, looking for fish  and finding water lilies.


We ended off our visit by with a visit to the garden centre,- William had told me that as it was his day, I couldn't go there, but an apple from the cart changed his mind, so I got a chance to browse the new season bulbs.

My tips for a sucessful gardening day out with Children

1) don't forget a drink and a snack, - Garden cafe's are available, but are often expensive with a queue

2) take as much literature from the garden entrance as possible, maps are always popular even with very little ones, any trails are good value as well

3) ask questions all the way round, - a lot of garden features will be missed by children unless they are looking for them - e.g what is the statue of, how many pink flowers can you see

4) don't stay to long, if you overstay a visit, as well as having a miserable child on the day, they won't want to go back again in the future.

Sowing Runner bean seeds on a wigwam

This post is especially for Jasmin, and all other budding gardeners that are willing to help their parents in the Vegetable garden.  Now is the time to be planting out your Runner beans.

Runnerbeans  If you planted seeds in modules on a window sill or in the greenhouse, or if you've bought plants from a garden centre, and you have small plants that have several true leaves, you should acclimatise them for a day or 2 before planting by leaving them in a shady place outdoors,

Or you can sow seeds from now until July.

First prepare your wigwam, - get 6 to 8 bamboo canes or hazel poles and stick them into the ground in a circle about 80cm in diameter to about 30cm depth.  Then gather the canes together at the top and tie together with string or raffia by weaving it in and out of the poles to fix them tightly together. (you may need a tall helper for this)

Now you have a stable wigwam, plant your bean either side of your poles so that they have support - Dig a hole, tip your bean plant out of its pot by holding your fingers either side of the seedling, turning on its side and tapping the bottom of the pot, - it should slide out easily but the roots should hold the soil in place. Place it in the hole backfilling the soil and pushing it down around the roots with your finger.

If you are planting seeds, - I hedge my bets with 3 seeds per bean pole, one either side of the pole and one inside it, - about 5 cm from base.  The seeds need to go in on their sides (so they look like a capital O,) and they need to be pushed down into the soil up to your knuckle (or slightly past, if you have little hands), - then cover them with soil and firm it down.

Next Water, with a watering can with a rose, soaking each plant/seed without washing away the soil.

Watch them grow, - by August, you'll be harvesting great beans.

School Garden planting

i'm feeling tired but satisfied this morning (and my face is red from too much sun) as i've just been given lots of compliments at drop off about the planting that we did yesterday at William's School.
I was asked by the Parents Association to organise a groundforce day to create borders in some of the bare corners around the school grounds.  For the last few weeks i've been busy planning plantings that are

Low maintenance
Of interest for as long a period as possible during school terms
Need minimal watering and feeding even during establishments
Give a range of plantings for the children to learn from

We had almost 20 families turn up to help yesterday, and after 3 hours of hard work we'd managed to create and plant 3 big borders, 2 raised beds, 6 barrel planters and clear an area for some games tables, plus weed and tidy at the front of the school, and we were rewarded with a BBQ (thanks Emma)

The children will now be able to learn from a shady area, a herb bed, a dry border, and the front of the school will be colourful from Feb to November (that's the plan!)

if you're looking for plants that tick all the boxes for school grounds, my favourite are
Geranium Rozanne
Erigeron Karvinskianus
Bronze Fennel
Nerine bulbs
and Trailing Rosemary

Every cloud.......

What do you do when your son gets sent home from School with a virus , but doesn't stop him running around? - go and plant seeds in the garden of course....  William had only been at School for 1/2 hour when I was called this morning - my only morning off in the last couple of weeks was spent at the doctors, and the playground, - but as the doctor said that there was no need for him to be off school any more (he's past the contagious stage now) we went home and spent the afternoon in the garden.  Our link-a-bord raised vegetable beds, with the great topsoil in them thanks to the Bury Hill topsoil that was delivered on Friday  -  - plus William and Ashley's wheelbarrowing skills, was planted this afternoon with french beans, mangetout, radishes, potatoes, lettuces, coriander and strawberries.  The last one is the most important to my 4 year old son, and they were lovingly watered in with his yellow watering can. I'm really excited about my raised vegetable beds, which are 3 times the size of the space I had in the last garden, so i'm going to squeeze in as much as possible. - i'll let you know when I get my first harvest.