In the coldest months of the year, it’s inspiring to think about planting projects for spring and summer. If you’re looking to connect children and nature through plantings, you’ve probably heard a lot about sensory gardens and vegetable beds. They get a lot of attention, for good reason! But maybe you’re looking for plantings that will be lower-maintenance over time, or wish to transform an area into a beautiful retreat as well as a wonderful place for play.
That’s where ornamental grasses come in! At Gardens For Life, we’re developing a “menu” of landscape zones to help caregivers shape outdoor spaces. Some zones are pretty self-explanatory, like a raised bed vegetable garden, or a sand play area. Another zone on the menu is called The Meadow, and it consists of groupings of ornamental grasses with paths and cozy nooks. Think of it as a tidier version of this:
Rather than spreading handfuls of wildflower seeds, which can be a fun experiment but may be tough to manage over time, The Meadow uses a careful selection of a few species of grasses. There are many native grasses that perform well in sun and part shade, and you might be surprised to learn that ornamental grasses contribute to pollinator and bird habitat! Clumping bamboo offers durability and an annual supply of sticks for loose parts play (avoid running bamboo, which will quickly over-run your whole space!). The key is placing the plants so they create pathways and child-sized nooks.
Whether your space is big or small, The Meadow can be laid out to create lovely spots to gather, play, and get in touch with nature.
Although children will feel hidden in the tall grasses, caregivers will still be able to see them. If supervision is a concern, shorter grasses can be selected.
The Meadow has infinite possibilities for play and learning, from toddlers to tweens. For example, children can:
- Play hide-and-seek
- Chat and tell jokes in a small group
- Calm down or rest, away from an active play area
- Feel the soft seed heads against fingers and cheeks
- Imagine they are exploring a wild landscape
- Use animal figures or other toys to play out creative stories
- Use cut grass for crafts, pretend play, or nest-building (ornamental grasses should be cut back in late winter to make room for spring growth)
- Record changes in the grasses over the seasons
Once established, ornamental grasses need very little care. Ready to get started? Gardens For Life can help you create a Meadow in your very own space! Learn more about our services here.