Successful Landscape Design is Child’s Play

When Carla approached me to write about landscape design, I was unsure of an approach. I could discuss Aesthetics, Function, Feel, Grading and Drainage, Privacy,  Lighting,  Water, Trees/shrubs/Perennials, Native Plants,  Sustainability, Play structures, Garden furniture/Ornaments, Firepits, Outdoor structures,  Vegetable Gardens, Decking/Patios, Retaining walls, Water features, etc.  I started writing down some ideas and then quickly scrapped them all.

While Landscape Design encompasses these topics, yesterdays visit with a client reinforced for me the importance of combining  children’s safety with the above. The family requested a patio, outdoor kitchen, shed,  change in fence location, fire pit,  plantings, lighting, and irrigation. As part of my consultation, I do a quick site analysis noting current conditions while processing their thoughts.

With young children in a home, safety is anything but child’s play and is an important facet of design.

Debra, my client, even gave me a drawing showing the desired locations. While  she was slightly concerned about the drawing’s quality, I assured her it was fine. As a matter of fact it was more, revealing the family, their traffic patterns, and likes. The straggly tree I see in winter, is actually one child’s’ favorite for climbing.

With young children in a home, safety is anything but child’s play and is an important facet of design.  At a minimum, the outdoor kitchen shouldn’t be near the climbing tree and many plants avoided. The fire pit portable, so as to change its location as the kids get older.  In school, I was trained in the combination of art and science of Landscape Design. As a mother of four, I can’t help but consider safety. This integration is not some brilliant business strategy I  started out with. Rather it evolved, borne out of experience and some scars.

My second sons athletic prowess was honed in his early years as a safety nightmare. We often needed more than one adult just to keep an eye on his ever-changing movements and speed. Imagine three kids in two years and one child consuming 80% of  our energy. My yard was originally designed and subsequently redesigned with the sole goal of keeping him out of the emergency room.  My sanity held in the balance.

Fencing, which adequately kept our large dog in needed revamping to contain this child.  Shrub types and locations were selected for containment first and aesthetics second.  With good landscape planning, prayers, and luck we were able to avoid hospital visits. Of course there were ER visits due to sports injuries and stupidity.

Like the time he swallowed a marble. Why? “Mom I went to spit it at Charlie but it went the wrong way”.

All landscape projects can be aesthetically appealing even with safety in mind. We as parents need both. A place to relax, laugh, and unwind while letting the kids explore. Welcome to South Orange and Maplewood, NJ!

P.S. I hope none of your children will spit marbles at Charlie!

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