Our son and his family have just bought a new house. The garden is basically just lawn; we would like to help them plant it with more interesting things, but as they have two youngsters, it needs to be child-friendly. Can you suggest some plants which will be tough enough to withstand footballs and small feet?
A lot of plants are tougher than you'd expect – they have to be or they wouldn't be so successful. Once established, the likes of Mexican orange blossom (Choisya ternate), the smoke bush (Cotinus) and the evergreen but interestingly-coloured Photinia are all capable of looking after themselves.
Add to them many of the viburnums, buddleias, mahonias and euonymus, and you have a good base for providing the skeleton for a small garden.
Tough herbaceous plants include Nepeta (catmint), Crocosmia, many grasses, perennial geraniums and the delicate-looking but quite capable Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla mollis).
Plants to avoid where young children are concerned (at least until they are old enough to understand potential dangers) are the really spiky individuals such at Pyracantha (Firethorn) and Bear's Breeches (Acanthus) and those which carry tempting but unhealthy berries.
Many common garden plants are poisonous to a greater or lesser degree, so it is important that you check them out before you buy.
When your grandchildren are capable of avoiding these dangers, you can add more plants to the garden.
YP MAG 8/1/11