By Ian Dexter. The theme of this garden is an organic playground. Its aim is to create a sustainable, organic space with a balance of fun, excitement and risk in a controlled, managed environment. It is an area where children can connect with and learn about wildlife, horticulture and biodiversity.
The garden was inspired by what children really want. Throughout 2007 Marshalls conducted a series of school workshops to find out what children would like in their gardens if they had full design control, and from this the ideas were translated into the final design for the garden.
The majority of the play elements within the garden are inspired by the children's ideas, including a tree for climbing and a rock stack with openings to create a cave-like chamber, for scrambling over and playing within.
The rock stack has water percolating through one of its faces into a shallow pool that is edged with timber rounds that create a stepping stone path. The path leads to a timber orb den. The garden also has a carved stone snake path that winds its way through the garden. The snake's head rises above ground level to provide a platform for climbing and jumping.
The planting is designed to be robust and interactive. Large, bold leaves of Gunnera manicata and Fatsia japonica encourage children to play and hide among them. Other plants are more textural, including Acer triflorum and Prunus serrula with peeling barks, and Cryptomeria japonica 'Elegans Compacta', Cotinus coggygria 'Young Lady' and Stipa tenuissima with soft, tactile foliage.
Strong, vertical accents such as Astelia nervosa 'Westland' work well within the soft planting, and grass mounds and other areas of wild flower encourage insects and other wildlife.
Cotinus coggygria 'Young Lady'
Cryptomeria japonica 'Elegans Compacta'
Helichrysum italicum 'Korma'
Phormium 'Maori Sunrise' (syn. P. 'Rainbow Sunrise')
Phormium 'Pink Stripe'
Phormium 'Platt's Black'
Phormium 'Red Sensation'
Phormium tenax 'All Black'
Acorus gramineus 'Licorice'
Astelia nervosa 'Westland'
Astrantia 'Hadspens Blood'
Astrantia major subsp. involucrata 'Shaggy'
Dryopteris affinis 'Cristata'
Heuchera 'Beauty Colour'
Iris 'Black Taffeta'
Iris 'Black Knight'
Libertia 'Taupo Blaze'
Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens'
Persicaria microcephala 'Red Dragon'
Salvia × sylvestris 'Mainacht'
Stachys byzantina 'Primrose Heron'