C for Child’s Play

Need to keep kids happy in the garden? Ignore expensive jungle jims and plastic mud kitchens. Resist trampolines that flip over fences in strong winds. Instead, re-visit the ideas of a garden author who died over 50 years ago: Richard Sudell.

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography reveals Sudell to have been a self-educated farm labourer’s son. Booted out of school at 14 to serve a six-year apprenticeship in the walled garden of a Preston mill owner (The Larches, Ashton-on-Ribble), Sudell probably yearned after a bit of free play.

And at a time when children were still expected to be seen and not heard, Sudell, in the New Illustrated Gardening Encyclopaedia, recommended giving them garden space.

Richard Sudell’s garden plan

OK, so his design (above) occupied an allotment-sized space (compare the plot to the garage). Yet, scaled down, the plan makes perfect sense with its frog pond, sand pit, flower beds (I’d devote half to vegetables) and Wendy House (yes, for boys too). Sow that lawn with a wild meadow mix and dip into his flora list (which reads like a Head Gardner’s seed order): clarkia, coreopsis, candytuft, alyssum, asters, honesty, kochia, love-in-a-mist, linum (flax), mignonette, nasturtiums, marigolds, pansies, primroses, wallflowers and zinnias.

On the other hand, you could just give the kid a bare patch of ground and leave them to it. Here’s 13-year-old Luke with his part of his Florida patch complete with agave, aloes, pineapples and sweet orange.

Luke’s 7 x 7 patch in Florida

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