Children see gardens differently. How differently you only appreciate when you watch them at it: their alternative interpretations can be amusing – could actually be inspirational – or can be just plain annoying. It’s the go-karts that get to me.
Our careful creation in the New Forest, 20 acres of it, has infinite play potential, from swimming and toy boats in the pond to tree-climbing, stream-damming and just plain mud pies. Small children stay closer at hand, of course, and wreak havoc in the herb garden by the kitchen door. At five or six they find steps amusing: how many can you jump at one go? At seven they (and their friends) are keen on leaping streams, and anything containing water. A flight of garden stairs branching to enclose a water tank and splashing spout is good for a running leap onto the path below, sending the gravel flying onto the lawn. It wasn’t a good idea to plant primulas on the brink of a pond just at the take-off point to jump to the little island, either. Building a dam in the carefully-adjusted overflow from a pond comes naturally (irresistibly, in fact). Then the flooded margin makes a good splashing ground with excellent mud pie potential.
The deer have seen to it long ago that lots of our trees are multi-stemmed and prime for climbing. It’s only natural to kick footballs at flowerbeds and try to hit the bedroom windows with them. The logpile is a builder’s yard with intriguing construction possibilities, including, of course, ladders. And the circle in the gravel drive is the perfect go-kart skidpan. In the decibel stakes a go-kart comes just below a leaf-blower, but it’s a close thing.
Did someone suggest planting beans? The magic of germination comes a poor second behind stream-damming in child-appeal.