Landscaping around Play Areas - dummies

Landscaping around Play Areas

By The National Gardening Association, Bob Beckstrom, Karan Davis Cutler, Kathleen Fisher, Phillip Giroux, Judy Glattstein, Michael MacCaskey, Bill Marken, Charlie Nardozzi, Sally Roth, Marcia Tatroe, Lance Walheim, Ann Whitman

Whether you have a pool or just kids that need to run off energy in your yard, you can landscape your play areas so that everyone has space to enjoy the great outdoors. Landscaping around a pool involves choosing the kind of look that you want — tropical, natural, sleek, and so on. Keep the following practical considerations in mind when making your plans and selecting your plants:

  • Don’t create shade: Plants shouldn’t cast shade where you don’t want it. Choose low-growing or dwarf-type plants. Palms are different — even big ones may not cast too much shade.

  • Stay away from mess-makers: Avoid leaf, blossom, and berry shedders that drop debris into your pool.

  • Avoid bee-attracting blossoms: Many summer annuals fall into this category.

  • Choose low-maintenance plantings: You probably want to use your poolside areas for relaxing and not for heavy-duty gardening.

Here are few suggestions for plants that work well around a pool:

  • Low shrubs and ground covers: Agapanthus, juniper, moraea, rosemary

  • Medium-sized to large shrubs: Holly, Japanese black pine, pittosporum, pyracantha

Designed in the shape of a clock, this kids’ play area appeals to the sense of fun, adventure, and taste buds of nearly all children.


Be extremely careful when selecting plants for your child’s garden. If you have any questions, check lists of poisonous plants (which may be available from your county extension office) or consult your local nursery.

This plan is meant mainly as inspiration. Feel free to change its scale (the minimum space is 10 by 10 feet) or, instead of a clock, make it into a sun, a daisy — whatever suits your needs. This plan contains the following fantastic features:

  • At the center of it all is a whimsical sculpture or sandbox. Remember that the sandbox won’t be fun for kids (or for you) if neighborhood or family cats have access to it. To block out sun, cover the sandbox with plywood or an outdoor awning cloth.

  • The brick clock garden is a real eye-catcher. Strawberry and blueberry plants alternate in cutouts between numbers or spaces left blank.

  • The plants don’t just sit there. Various training devices get them off the ground and make them more interesting — trellises for cucumbers, cages for tomatoes, and so on. You can use a section of fence to train the apple tree into a flat espalier (plant that grows flat along a fence).

  • The plants are fun. In addition to the berries, other edibles include pumpkins, figs, and grapes. Sunflowers are big and striking — and irresistible to kids.

You can make a kids’ play area more fun by including plants that have extra appeal for youngsters.

  • Gourds: Harvest and dry the gourds — which are as easy to grow as squash — for crafts projects or decorations.

  • *Popcorn: Grow popcorn just like sweet corn, but don’t plant it near sweet corn unless you want to demonstrate the bizarre effects of cross-pollination.

  • Pumpkins: The draw is obvious, but pumpkins need a lot of room and water and a good three or four months to reach harvest stage.

  • Mickey Mouse plant: Kids see a strong resemblance to Mickey Mouse in one stage of the black and red flowers on this little shrub. The plant’s botanical name is Ochna multiflora.