Have a tour among the displays in the children’s gardens from some of the big name gardens in the greater Philadelphia area.
I visited both Winterthur and Longwood Gardens recently and both had a children’s garden. Check out the Morris Arboretum from last year and their exhibit Out on a Limb. It really is a hit with the kids.
We visited Winterthur on a day they were closed, so no children were at play in the garden, but I can imagine them running and laughing from one place to the next to experience what lies ahead.
The objective to designing for kids is having the features interactive and tickle the senses. Kids are very sensory beings and they relate through sight, hearing, especially touch, taste, smell and the act of play. They are curious and always on the move. Objects in a children’s garden must be scaled to little people and still have interest for the parents. They also must be designed so parents can keep an eye on the kids.
I have designed private children’s gardens so being creative is central, but keeping the kids safe is of most importance. The designer has to have a good feel for play and look at it from a child’s perspective. You never see the customary swing set and slide in these gardens – you see adventure.
Kid’s like color, texture, sensory plants, and things to excite the imagination. Longwood Children’s garden appeals to adults as much or more than it does to kids and is very sophisticated.
The interactive displays were a tunnel like exhibit, The Grotto Cave, which had a fog-covered pool activated by water that dripped from ornate snakes coiled above. The adults had to crouch down to pass through.
The railing of the ramp has water that kids could redirect. Water runs down the rail to be swallowed up by a salamander at the bottom of the ramp. I did not see kids interacting with this exhibit unfortunately.
The Bamboo Maze has tree-size bamboo to tickle the imagination. Five visitor-activated water features accented with ornate birds like shown above and below were throughout.
My favorite water feature at the Grotto Cave I could not photograph because it popped water up to a spot at the top of the feature really fast. There was no way to anticipate when it would do it either. Kids were mesmerized. I also love the pelicans blowing bubbles.
All the fountains at Longwood Gardens were really fun in some way.
At Winterthur, kids had a large area to explore with many fun structures. Their garden is called the Enchanted Woods garden and a child is made to feel like they are at the beginning of “Once Upon a Time”. They cross a magical bridge, all the while wary of trolls lurking beneath. This is a land where fairies brought in all the crumbling columns, broken balustrades and forgotten millstones.
The Faerie Cottage furniture is all scaled to kids, making a haven for them.
The magical mushroom ring above has a sign that says, “never step into a fairy ring,” because if they do they can be whisked off to fairyland in a puff of mist. I don’t think kids could help themselves from stepping inside to see what would happen. I can see them looking down at their feet to see if they will disappear.
The kids can operate the pump, below. I hope you enjoyed the creative displays and felt like a kid yourself again. Play is important in all our lives.
Next, we look at the gardens around the main Winterthur house. Formal design at its lavish and decorated best.