Terrace Gardens and Play Areas – The terrace will be the hub of many garden activities. Its location within the overall composition will have been carefully worked out at the garden design stage. The important thing is that it links in visual terms with the rest of the garden, and with the house that it normally adjoins.
The Beauty of a Terrace Garden
The garden terrace will probably be the largest paved area in your garden. Its overall shape and size should be generous; always make it slightly larger than you think necessary. Think in terms of an average room, then allow for furniture, toys and accessories. The garden terrace is the perfect place for a barbecue and built-in seating, for a raise bed or sandpit, for overhead beams to provide light shade, for pots of plants, and for water used in any number of ways.
If the terrace adjoins the house, the layout can be architectural. Remember to lay it below the level of the damp proof course (dpc), and use materials that match or complement the material used in the construction of the house. Further away from the building, a paved area can be more informal.
Sandpits and paddling pools are essential pieces of equipment for families with small children. Both can be bought off-the-peg, and moved around the garden at will. They can also be built more permanently into a terrace area, where a raised sandpit could later be converted into a raised bed or a pool.
With the former, drainage is very important: the bottom must be dug out to take 300mm/12in of thoroughly consolidated crushed stone or hardcore, topped first with a layer of clean gravel, and then with 300mm/12in of silver sand. Never use builder’s sand – the stains are almost impossible to get out. Some kind of cover will also be needed, which can double as a useful play surface.
When children are a little older, the larger play structures come into their own: swings, slides, see-saws, and climbing frames. All can be built by the determined carpenter, and will be sturdier than the tubular metal varieties. Tailor the features to suit your needs. A swing can be hung in an arch and a slide built into an existing bank.
Large structures are highly visible, but the garden should be seen as a place for the widest range of activities, and your outside room will change as your family grows. Plants and ornaments may be in jeopardy for a few years, and when the ball-game phase arrives, you will have to abandon all hope of a fine lawn. Enjoy it! There will be time enough to repair the wreckage later on.
Children love to escape the eye of adults, but avoid the dreaded plastic Wendy House at all cost. Make a wooden one, hand over a ramshackle shed as a ‘den’, or put up a tent. For small children, even a blanket slung over a rotary clothes drier makes a fine and secret place. Best of all, of course, is a soundly constructed tree house.