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Come Visit a Play Garden!

Welcome to my Play Garden! I believe that gardens should be for everyone, and this space is intended to be inviting and interesting, welcoming adults, children, and furry friends alike. Children love gardens just as much as adults do and a long-lasting appreciation for flora and fauna comes from sharing your garden space with them. Tour a play garden - a whimsical space meant to invite in all ages to enjoy the gardenToday, I’m happy to show some photos of the backyard play space that I have been building for my family and friends to enjoy. Keep in mind that growing gardens is a long-term project and this tour begins when the garden is in its infancy. The elements have been created and the plants chosen, but it will continue to grow and develop over the season and subsequent years. Garden Therapy Back Yard Play Garden Tour (3)

I have five gardens that I am currently working on:

  • the backyard play garden,
  • the front yard shade garden,
  • the perennial herb garden,
  • the vertical vegetable beds,
  • and the ornamental shade garden and quarry.

Today the tour begins with the newly created play garden space in the backyard. Garden Therapy Back Yard Play Garden Tour

When I moved into the house, all of the structure of the garden spaces and was finished and it was just the plants that needed an update. The trees were planned out well around the property to bloom in succession, bringing interest to the garden from early spring into summer. But the garden beds were full of 5-foot tall raspberries and roses and other thorny, green things that created a visual barrier as well as an unwelcoming feeling.

The worst thing I encountered, however, was that the soil was dead. Not a worm or microbe to be found. The plants had plenty of disease and struggled to thrive in this unhealthy soil. Even worse, the home renovators buried literally tons of construction material in the soil. I worked hard over the last three years to rebuild the soil (see how to do that here) and this year, finally, I was ready to plant!Garden Therapy Back Yard Play Garden Tour (26)

The back garden bed, just off the main lawn in the back yard is 5 feet wide and 20 feet long. A plain rectangle that had two large trees flanking either side and an awkward vegetable garden strip. My goal for the space was to retain the current structure of the center lawn with three surrounding beds but remove the tall plantings, basal prune the trees and shrubs and remove any unhealthy or crowded plants. With the heaviness of the trees and shrubs lifted there was room for new perennials, annuals and vegetables down below. The new structure created visual room around the garden, expanding the overall living space.Garden Therapy Back Yard Play Garden Tour (16)

I wanted to integrate play structures for my toddler so that the yard would be usable but also beautiful and educational. Creating elements like a table and chairs made out of found wood stumps, a hopscotch pathway through the middle of the garden, and low plantings (18″ and under) that are decorative, sensory, and occasionally edible, makes for an interactive garden space that becomes an extension of the lawn.Garden Therapy Back Yard Play Garden Tour (2)Garden Therapy Back Yard Play Garden Tour (9)

These hopscotch stepping stones were created by using this method and laid in the garden forming a path that goes by bleeding hearts, blueberries, and bunny tail grasses until it reaches the table and chairs made out of wood stumps.Garden Therapy Back Yard Play Garden Tour (15)

Garden Therapy Back Yard Play Garden Tour (1)Hopscotch in the garden with DIY concrete stepping stonesRustic children's garden table and chairs with a teapot planted with succulents

Above the table and chairs is a solar light chandelier which you can see how to make here.DIY Solar Light Chandelier hanging over rustic tree stump table and chairs

On the table, a tea kettle planted with succulents leads you to believe it is the perfect spot for a tea party.Garden Therapy Back Yard Play Garden Tour (19)

More stepping stones were created throughout the garden beyond the hopscotch stones, using prints from leaves found around the garden. See how to make these stepping stones here.

In addition, a leaf from the large rhubarb that grows at the west side of the garden was used as a mold to create the stepping stone that sits at the base of the table and chairs. See how to make stepping stones from large leaves here.Garden Therapy Back Yard Play Garden Tour (24)

Upon exiting the play space, there is a pot for digging with a wall of golden raspberries in behind for snacking.Garden Therapy Back Yard Play Garden Tour (18)

Coming out of the garden you approach two bright red Adirondack chairs, beside the Japanese maple “Bloodgood” that is planted in a large pot filled with alpine strawberry plants. I plant strawberries wherever I have a free container. More on strawberries in containers here and here and here.Garden Therapy Back Yard Play Garden Tour (14)

Garden Therapy Back Yard Play Garden Tour (25)

My favorite place to relax is the hammock swing. Built off the deck with an arbor structure, this hammock swing is the perfect spot to enjoy the garden. The arbor is currently growing an evergreen clematis, although it can’t be seen yet. In time it will cover the arbor providing some shade and beautiful fragrance when in bloom.Garden Therapy Back Yard Play Garden Tour (1)

Behind the swing, growing on the side of the deck is an espaliered apple tree with five different apple varieties grafted on. The espalier tree is only two years old, yet it is producing a few apples this year! In future years, I will continue to prune and train it to produce an abundance of apples in a small space. The branches will thicken and create more buds for more apples as the years go by, but the overall height, width, and shape will remain the same.Garden Therapy Back Yard Play Garden Tour (13)

The stairs go up to the deck which overlooks the garden. Beside the deck you’ll find the perennial herb garden which makes for easy access for zipping down from the kitchen to get some fresh herbs. The herb garden contains rosemary, sage, thyme, mint, nodding onion, chives, a large fig tree, and even a small yuzu tree I was given as a gift. (See the perennial herb garden from my last house here). There are also a few hanging baskets with Tiny Tim Tomatoes and annuals sent to me from Proven Winners as part of their 2016 collection.Garden Therapy Back Yard Play Garden Tour (3)Garden Therapy Back Yard Play Garden Tour (2)

Garden Therapy Back Yard Play Garden Tour (4)

All of this in a small city backyard and I haven’t even shown you HALF of the gardens! You can see many of the projects that I have done around the space in the Garden Projects Gallery.


  1. Pingback: Debbie doo's home tour with Bhome - Debbiedoos
  2. Pingback: Twiggy Gnomes and Gardens | Home
  3. Thank you so much for showing us around your gardens! They are absolutely beautiful and so welcoming. I can’t wait to see more!

  4. An espalier was my grandest ambition in my humble garden. However, life changed my aspirations! I so appreciate your beautiful gardens and the splendid time you have in them. Though I have had chronic pain for years, I was seldom aware of that pain during gardening, even during laborious chores. It was a true blessing, just like my family! One gardening question I have. Your mint appears to be growing in a bed rather than a pot. If that is the case, have you been able to contain and restrain it from taking over the bed. I’m new to your blog but so happy I’ve found it. Thank you so much!

    • Thanks for your kind comments, Lois. Gardening is such a joy and help for pain, indeed. I do have a bit of mint that grows in my herb garden bed, but only because it was there when I moved in to the house. I pull it out by the roots regularly but it does always grow back. I have 6-8 more varieties of mint in the garden, but they are all in pots. Always plant mint in pots and if it escapes, harvest often!

  5. Absolutely loving this! We are currently working on a backyard play space for our kids and just pulled up all the blackberries and pokey plants that had taken over before we moved in. This woodland, welcoming, exploring and engaging vibe is exactly what I’m trying to create. I appreciate being able to see it and get further ideas! Wonderful job!


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