What’s more fun than designing a children’s garden? Maybe playing in one! To be great designers, we need to be able to “see the world as a garden,” by retaining a childlike vision, a sense of fun, silliness, sensory delight ….to bring joy to our pint-sized clients.
Creating Weezie’s Garden — a one-acre garden at Elm Bank in Wellesley, MA — for the Massachusetts Horticultural Society brought me right back to those many joyful hours I spent, playing under the old forsythia bush, climbing trees, and studying pond life during my own childhood. I drew on these memories and many others to come up with the design for the garden. The plan was inspired by the beauty of unfurling fern fronds in the form of tendril paths that represent the expansive growth of the developing child.
My colleagues, the late Ed Hartranft, and Amanda Sloan, both worked with me on this project.
The outer “tendril gardens” offer a series of quiet activities, including a Maypole Garden surrounded by Japanese maples, the Big Red Chair garden, a Bluebird Garden with its mountain laurel Nests, and the Butterfly Garden with its masses of color and twiggy butterfly bench. In the center of the space are three more active play spaces: the Treehouse on the Mountain, where kids can climb while parents can see across the whole site; Tortoise Island, designed with different kinds of water play (including pumping stations, a water garden, and water dripping down stones); and a rocky sand “pool.”
Weezie’s Garden is clearly enjoyed by children of all ages. The Boston Parent’s Paper gave it an award for Best Children’s Outdoor Play Area. In 2008, Weezie’s Garden was awarded a Gold Medal by The Massachusetts Horticultural Society.