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Cultivating peace and quiet: A garden for children and adults


Photo By: Courtesy of Astrid Gaiser
Photo Courtesy Of Astrid Gaiser

Incorporating colorful pieces like a jungle gym and a tire swing in the backyard can provide hours of fun for children and adults alike.

Bill Cosby once said, “Parents are not interested in justice; they’re interested in peace and quiet.”

I am with him. I did my best in the justice department, but sometimes I just needed a break – and what better way than sending the children outside. You know, the outside voices being used outside. And take the dog as well, please.

But the “sending outside” strategy doesn’t work if children can’t find enough to do there. So I started to get very inventive. And because I am a landscape designer, the sky is the limit.

Anything that has to do with water, climbing, sliding, swinging or running is great – and makes them tired. An open-air theater is effective as well – it can take children hours to prepare a performance. All I have to do is sit in a cozy chair at the end, watch the show and enjoy.

My clients discovered my little tricks and wanted some for their gardens. And while my ideas are limitless, my aesthetic tolerance is not. So when my latest clients had the idea of purchasing a climbing structure from a big-box store, they saw me go into idea overdrive.

I designed twin triangle decks, one for the adults with a fire pit filled with magical glass. (Fine, it’s just fireproof glass, but “magical” sounds better and the children are super busy sorting through it – you could claim that you’ve heard from the designer that the green ones are precious stones.)

The other one is the smaller version of the adult deck – the kids’ deck. The kids’ deck boasts a beautiful wooden arbor built around an old tree in the middle that will in many years be used as a shady spot for two chairs for the parents. For now, however, it’s kid central.

We added yellow monkey bars and a fire-engine-red tire swing as well as a blackboard.

As tested by yours truly, the monkey bars are a fail-safe way to get into the tree, the tire swing can make one seriously motion sick and the arbor on the deck is turned into a huge stage within minutes by draping some old sheets over the front.

We added enough paved “runway” to keep things moving and made do with only a minimal lawn to reduce maintenance requirements. All plants are nonpoisonous and sturdy, and there is enough space for the children to grow vegetables.

The accent colors for the garden were picked up from one super-sized piece of outdoor art – all colors are bold and happy, as you’d find in a child’s room, but the grays and browns of decking and pavement give this garden a rather distinguished and modern look.

The result? Happy, busy children. And happy parents, too. OK, it’s still not really quiet, but it’s good – they are laughing.

Astrid Gaiser is a landscape designer, horticulturist and member of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers. For more information, visit www.astridgaiser.com or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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