Case Study: Child-friendly Back Garden Design


This academic project is designed for a family composed of two toddlers, aged two and four, and a new addition on the way our main goal here is to bring a vibrant yet practical patio garden to life.

Project Background:

The client has a taste for vivid colours and fragrant plants and a desire for a cosy and child-friendly atmosphere.

Important also is important to consider the practicalities of maintenance, given her upcoming responsibilities with three young children. The need for outdoor drying facilities for laundry has also been highlighted, a valuable addition for a household that anticipates frequent clothes washing.


The challenge lies in selecting the ideal paving materials as the garden’s shallow dimensions leave limited space, primarily allocated for her envisioned seating and entertaining area.

Also, the soil on site leans toward the heavy side, which presents potential challenges for adequate drainage. To address this, we will need to make thoughtful recommendations to ensure the garden remains lush and healthy.

Concept Development:

Creating a child-friendly space and optimizing its functionality were my primary objectives when designing this garden. The patio serves as a versatile hub, ideal for both family gatherings and accommodating the daily activities of this busy mother who juggles childcare.

The garden features a dynamic layout, with a central turf lawn bordered by brickwork and a dedicated sandpit area where children can play freely. I prioritized selecting non-slip, durable, easy-to-clean, and compact materials, such as slabs, considering the safety of small children who tend to explore objects with their mouths. The Marshalls Saxon Textured Flag Paving in a Natural colour scheme seamlessly connects the entrance, patio, and narrow path, optimizing every inch of space.

To enhance the garden’s functionality further, I strategically relocated the garden shed to the left corner and discreetly positioned the oil tank on the right, cleverly integrated into a raised bed. This placement reduces the visual impact of these elements, creating a more spacious and harmonious garden environment. Refer to the illustration below for a visual representation of these thoughtful adjustments.

These adjustments have allowed for the creation of two sleeper-edged raised beds, elevated to a height of +600mm, providing optimal planting areas. To enhance the soil quality in this garden and prevent waterlogging, I recommend incorporating crushed stone into the base, along with soil amendments and compounds for both the planting beds and the turf lawn area. Although this may entail a slightly higher initial cost, it will expedite the lawn’s readiness for use and reduce future maintenance demands.

Given the garden’s limited sunlight due to its small size and high block walls, especially during the long Scottish winters, I carefully selected plants that thrive in shade or partial sunlight. To keep the garden light and delicate in appearance, I opted for small flowers and fragrant plants. Clusters of Viburnum, capable of reaching heights of up to 2.5 meters, will be strategically planted at the far end, providing structure and seasonal variety with snowball white flowers in spring and red berries in autumn. Pulmonaria ‘Blue Ensign,’ a shade-loving plant, will contribute delicate blue-violet flowers and unique foliage. Thyme allowed to grow freely as ground cover, will not only add contrast and fragrance but also introduce a special lilac hue in summer.

At each end of the garden, two different shrubs will be introduced to create structure and a cosy atmosphere. Loropetalum Chinese, with its dark foliage, will visually balance the garden shed and obscure the oil tank with the addition of Lophomyrtus ×ralphii ‘Little Star,’ boasting rounded green leaves with a pink-flushed tint.

Taking advantage of the flowering cherry tree’s shadow from the neighbouring garden, I’ve designed a sheltered seating area with a wooden swing where the parents can comfortably supervise their children at play. Additionally, for the children’s enjoyment and creativity, a chalkboard will be placed on the right sidewall. This area receives ample afternoon sunlight, making it an ideal location for a retractable wall-mounted clothes drying rack. If necessary, this area can be further sheltered in the future.

To ensure the garden serves as a functional space for the family’s daily activities, the inclusion of key pieces of furniture is essential. The central table will facilitate outdoor dining and entertainment, while the bench near the entrance serves as a versatile spot for quick snacks with the kids, functioning as a console table and offering convenient storage for their toys within easy reach while in the garden.

Ready to transform your outdoor space into a modern garden tailored to your preferences? Contact me today, and let’s bring your dream garden to life.

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