There's Fun for All in the Family Garden

Forget formal spaces, gardens are becoming more popular for fun outdoor experiences the whole family can enjoy.

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Outdoor Family Room DK - Garden Design © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Family gardens, with areas for relaxation, children's play and family dining, have been a way of life since the middle of the 20th century, when the 40-hour work week was standardized and leisure time provided for. Today, family gardens have a new dedication to merging function with form, resulting in outdoor spaces that are as chic as they are useful.

Designs for play areas have to be flexible to accommodate changing needs as children grow, but not at the expense of aesthetic. Play equipment, such as a sandbox, jungle gym or swing can introduce strong color into the garden, while planting areas that attract birds and butterflies also provide sources of wonderment. Rubber and bark chips, or other soft yet resilient materials, make practical surfaces for play areas, while lighting helps to create a different ambience after dark when adults take over the space. In larger yards this transition can be easily managed with separate, designated areas - as in this outdoor living room with built-in benches, from which the adults can casually supervise kids playing in the yard - but in smaller yards the design needs to be more flexible, perhaps employing temporary play equipment that can be cleared away as required.

Planting in a family garden should be robust, simple and easy to maintain; it must also be free from toxic plants and sharp thorns. Hard-wearing turf is the best choice for lawns, although as artificial grass looks and feels better and better, it might be worth considering.

Water features may provide another way to catch kids' attention, but safety must be considered before installing one. If you have younger kids around, jets and cascades, where the main water reservoir is located underground, are far safer than open water features. However, naturalistic ponds are perfect for older children, who enjoy the aquatic creatures and wildlife that these features attract.

Excerpted from Garden Design

©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2009

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