Celebrating the Magic of Children’s Gardens

This week in North Philly Notes, Lolly Tai, author of The Magic of Children’s Gardens, explains why spring is a great time to visit Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library and the Magic of Enchanted Woods.

Great news! Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library is open during the pandemic. It is a gorgeous garden to visit year-round, but springtime is particularly spectacular. Children and families have the opportunity to come visit and enjoy the beautiful landscape filled with vast breathtaking swaths of colorful plantings. The splendor of seasonal color, texture, and fragrance is part of the experience while strolling through the garden.

Every year, I look forward to visiting Winterthur and exploring Enchanted Woods, the fairy tale children’s garden there. It is my favorite children’s garden and is featured in The Magic of Children’s Gardens. At Enchanted Woods, children can have fun discovering the enchantment in the landscape while engaging in creative and active play. The Faerie Cottage, Acorn Tearoom, Tulip Tree House, Bird’s Nest, Fairy Flower Labyrinth, Forbidden Fairy Ring, Story Stones, Gathering Green, Watering Trough and Frog Hollow are some of the elements of enchantment!  

Something new is always happening at Enchanted Woods! The Bird’s Nest has been refreshed and rewoven with new branches and vines and its wooden eggs are ready to be discovered inside. The Faerie Cottage, Tulip Tree House, and Acorn Tea Room are adorned with charming children’s furniture with whimsical squirrel- and acorn motif perfect for playing make believe. Under the Troll Bridge are hidden “treasures” that are waiting to be found. Behind the Rhododendron shrubs is a giant-sized Green Man’s Lair to be discovered. 

Visitors can enjoy a skip along the Fairy Flower Labyrinth with terrific views of the magnolias in the Sundial Garden.  They can step into the Forbidden Fairy Ring and experience the surprise of the fog filled mushroom ring. They can swing on the Gathering Green benches or dance around the Maypole among the tiny daffodils planted there. 


Spring ephemerals such as daffodils (Narcissus species), Siberian squill (Scilla siberica), and glory of the snow (Chionodoxa species) are blooming in Enchanted Woods, as well as hellebores. In the adjacent Sundial Garden, the magnolias and flowering quince are blooming. In the greater garden, Italian windflowers and bloodroot are carpeting the woodland floors in blue and white while hellebores, winterhazels, cherries, forsythia, and pieris, are blooming. The daffodils are starting with peak flowering a few weeks away. There are over 500,000 daffodils. It is really a great time to visit!

Check out the bloom reports for Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library at http://gardenblog.winterthur.org/

Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00am to 5:00pm. It is located at 5105 Kennett Pike, Winterthur, DE 19735. For more information, visit http://www.winterthur.org/.

Designing inspiring spaces for children

 This week in North Philly Notes, Lolly Tai, author of The Magic of Children’s Gardens, explains the purpose, beauty, and benefits of creating children’s outdoor environments in public gardens.

The focus of my research for the last two decades has been on designing outdoor environments for children. My deep interest was sparked by a schoolyard project that I assigned to my landscape architecture students almost twenty years ago when I was teaching at Clemson University. I learned for the first time in a very clear way that exposing children to nature and play are extremely important to children’s physical, mental and emotional health, and that today’s children no longer have ready access to natural environments, which are critical to their development. While I appreciate the need for outdoor space for children, to my dismay, I found very little information on the topic of designing for children at that time. That gave me the impetus to focus my research in this area. I learned a great deal about the design criteria for children. Scale, water, plants, wildlife, heights, retreat, enclosure, imagination, active play, and stimulation of the five senses are important considerations when designing for children. The culmination of my initial research resulted in a co-authored award winning book, Designing Outdoor Environments for Children, published by McGraw-Hill in 2006. The goal of the book was to encourage professionals and future generations to create more natural landscapes, creative outdoor play, and learning places for children.

My passion for exploring, learning, and writing about designing inspiring spaces for children continued to grow with each passing year. I recently expanded my research to include visiting children’s spaces in public gardens and interviewing garden administrators and designers. Each year, as an educator, I also provide my current Temple University landscape architecture students with the opportunity to experience a design project with special considerations for children. The Magic of Children’s Gardens is the culmination of my most recent research.

The Magic of Children's Gardens_smThe Magic of Children’s Gardens is the first book in the design profession that details nineteen outstanding case studies of children’s outdoor environments in public gardens. It presents inspiring design ideas for creating magical children’s spaces through examination of the gardens’ goals, concepts, design, and comprehensive collection of 700 images. The case studies are intended to serve as a broad platform to inspire the creation of more well-designed children’s outdoor spaces. The Magic of Children’s Gardens is intended to serve as a resource for design professionals, school administrators, botanical garden professionals, teachers, parents, students, and others who are planning to design and build children’s spaces.

Creating children’s outdoor environments is critical in today’s society as more and more children grow up in cities. According to the United Nations, just over half the world now lives in cities, and by 2050, over 70 percent of people will be urban dwellers. Children are spending less time outdoors. Sedentary lifestyles are contributing to obesity and other health problems, as well as a sense of disconnection from nature, for today’s urban children. That deleterious trend has to end and be turned around immediately. When nature no longer occurs naturally for children, it is imperative that we join our efforts to design spaces that benefit children’s health and well-being.

 

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