Landscaping With Children in Mind

A playhouse surrounded by a butterfly and bird garden.

The Finished Children's Garden

The Finished Children's Garden

This Connecticut lawn was transformed into an enchanted playground where children learn about gardening.

Photo by: Image courtesy of Austin Ganim Landscape Design

Image courtesy of Austin Ganim Landscape Design

This Connecticut lawn was transformed into an enchanted playground where children learn about gardening.

A family purchased this home in Fairfield, Connecticut, during the winter months when several feet of snow concealed the yard where their children would one day play.

“Much to their surprise on move-in day during warmer weather, they discovered that there was not a decorative plant to be found, and instead of what they thought might have been plants beneath the snow was just a steep bank that was difficult to mow,” says Eva Chiamulera, landscape architect with Austin Ganim Landscape Design, based in Fairfield. “We worked with the homeowners to develop a multi-year plan to transform their yard, starting with solving the problem of the difficult slope and creating a dynamic, interactive space for their children.”

The resulting sanctuary, with compelling features to catch the eye every season, looks idyllic enough for an old-fashioned storybook.

First, the designers constructed a low stone retaining wall to resolve grading problems and create a level area for the centerpiece of the lawn, a playhouse (designed and prefabricated by Kloter Farms and installed by Austin Ganim) and raised planting beds for the children. “These parents are really committed to introducing their kids to nature and gardening, so the children are involved in every step, from selecting the vegetables and herbs for these beds, to planting them, and then picking them,” Chiamulera says.

To reach the playhouse, the children ascend a staircase of monolithic fieldstone slabs, lined with strawberry plants and pass between dwarf fruit trees and blueberry bushes. The view from the playhouse porch swing overlooks a bird and butterfly garden.  “We took care to provide food sources for all of the different stages of a butterfly’s life cycle, including the larval one, as well as seed producers for the birds."

The hillside planting incorporates ornamental grasses, evergreens and perennials for winter interest, along with vibrant flowering plants and shrubs that attract hummingbirds and other pollinators during the summer.

Shop This Look

“As the seasons change, so does the floral display,” Chiamulera says. “The garden begins blooming in April with rhododendrons, by May dwarf lilacs are complimented by the pastel shades of spring the soft yellow of ‘Moonshine’ yarrow, the blues of salvia and catmint, transitioning to bold, bright colors of  summer with fuchsia, dark purple Adonis, butterfly bushes and orange milkweed. The late summer and fall garden turns to white and shades of pink as ‘Pinky Winky’ panicle hydrangea is paired with drifts of Joe Pye weed and a mixture of coneflowers. ‘Pink Knockout’ roses close the garden out in late November after the first hard frost.”

The best part? Memories.

“We’ve stayed in touch with this family, and the children absolutely love this space and spend a lot of time playing there and learning about gardening."

Next Up

The Best Tools to Get Kids Hooked on Gardening

Foster an interest in being outside and outdoor gardening with these kid-sized tools.

Print Our Road Trip Scavenger Hunt for Your Next Family Car Ride

Keep the kids busy in the car with our road trip scavenger hunt that you can download and print before hitting the open road.

Cicadas 2024: Everything You Need to Know

Two types of cicadas will emerge this year. This is a rare natural phenomenon that hasn’t happened since 1803! Learn about these fascinating creatures and find a few practical considerations for your home and garden.

Explore the Great Outdoors With Our Nature Scavenger Hunt

Hit the trails this spring and summer with our fun, free outdoor scavenger hunt you can download and print at home. It's a great way to get the kids or the whole family outside and away from screens.

30 Gifts for Garden-Loving, Outdoorsy Dads

Dad doesn't need another tie. Find the perfect garden-centric gift that he'll want to use year-round.

How to Design a Great Yard With Landscape Plants

Take the guesswork out of choosing landscaping plants by following "right plant, right place" garden design.

Print Our Birthday Scavenger Hunt for Your Kid’s Next Bash

Bring joy to any birthday celebration with this interactive scavenger hunt that you can print, cut out and hide throughout your home.

Print Our Free Christmas Scavenger Hunt for Some Family-Friendly Holiday Fun

Ho ho ho! Ring in the holiday season with our festive Christmas scavenger hunt you can download and print at home for free. ‘Tis the season for family fun!

The Best Backyard Swing Sets for Kids

Create a backyard made for entertaining your kids all year round with a ready-for-play swing set.

Keep the Kids Busy Indoors With Our Rainy Day Scavenger Hunt

Wash away those rainy day blues with our kid-friendly indoor scavenger hunt you can download and print at home for free.

Go Shopping

Get product recommendations from HGTV editors, plus can’t-miss sales and deals.

On TV

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.