Friday, 3 October 2008

Now That's More Like It

I like reading gardening and house magazines, supplements and blogs but not very many of these tell it like it is. And that is for families with young children, gardens mostly are not the peaceful, beautiful havens everybody else seems to have.

When I think of my friends' gardens, the ones with children, I see that my reality is theirs' too. They have goalposts, swings, climbing frames, washing lines, bare patches on their lawns, bikes abadoned anywhere. And when I read about family homes and gardens I see none of this.

What I want to see is how ordinary families (those with ordinary budgets and not the services of garden designers on hand) manage to incorporate not a child-friendly space but a child loving one while keeping it looking reasonably good and eeking out a bit of area for an adult who loves to garden.

I've written about this before and Sharon Lovejoy, author of one of my favourite books, kindly commented that washing lines will feature in her latest book, which I plan on checking out.

And, lo!, in this week's Sunday Times' Home supplement there was an article on creating family homes, and no, they weren't perfect in design but perfect for family life.

"Remember, your mini-Versailles, complete with topiary, nymph statuettes and colourful flowerbeds, will also have to accommodate the unstylish - trampoline, tyre swing, paddling pool, guinea-pig hutch and crumbling shed. Don't be precious."

Oh, music to my ears! Don't be precious indeed! Perhaps it's a result of the impending recession, but such a down-to-earth attitude is so refreshing.


  1. I know when I was studying Design, we were certainly taught to take all these needs into account, and make sure we dealt with the practical as well as the beautiful. That's what good design is about, it shouldn't be about form over function. I think part the problem with magazines is that they often show what we aspire to,or more to the point, what they and their advertisers think we should aspire to. Once the kids are grown and we have the free cash to spend of these luxuries, things are more feasible. I have just reached the stage where I can begin to express my aspirations, so understand exactly how frustrating it was sometimes trying to live up to the images in the glossies was. I had some friends ( they didn't remain that way long as I disapproved so strongly) who got the house, got the garden , got everything like the magazines,even the kids looked like adverts or accessories to their 'perfect' life. Once they had achieved all this (on credit) they then forbade their children from playing, or making mess, or from basically being children within the confines of what should have been home! All this for the sake of appearance! Its like the size zero issue too, we are all trying so hard to squeeze into that perfect little dress. It doesnt have to be that way, I have a friend whose house and gardens have appeared many times in the mags; Country Living, House and Garden, Period Living etc... just be happy with who and what you are, and accept that in reality those pictures are capturing a moment in time,they were staged and took a small army of people to achieve it. Understand that as soon as you turn the page, the picture disappears, and the reality is as transient in real life too, normality and family life return it to a home as soon as the cameras are gone and the chaos that is life continues.


  2. Those patches of bare lawn that served as baseball bases or spots under swings where sneakers scuffed to a stop were the most *precious* spots in my gardens. Always. :)

  3. I think the size zero analogy is a good one - the garden/homes magazines are just like the fashion magazines: normal people don't look like supermodels, but it doesn't seem to stop them wanting to buy all the gear! The sad truth is that ordinary just doesn't sell so well.

  4. Mrs Be! It seems your list of favourite books (Roots,Shoots... and Playground Potting Shed were the ones you mentioned) are scarily similar to my Amazon wish-list...

    Have you read 'A Child's Garden' by Molly Dannenmeier? If you have could you give it a review? Is it worth having?


  5. Y'know, that's strange, I thought I replied to Zoe and Nancy's comments. Humph.

    I can't remember exactly what I was going to say but Zoe, thanks for the lovely long comment. Those friends sounded like a nightmare.

    I do realise that the magazine spreads etc show perfection, I'm just saying that's boring and I wish they wouldn't!

    GardenGirl - I haven't heard of a Child's Garden, sorry! But am off to check it out on amazon now (not check it out as in buy....)!

  6. I'm with you on the bald patches and the climbing frame - it might not look so great but it's caused so many smiles, I wouldn't change it for all the flowers in Chelsea.

  7. I second the welcoming of the children's things into the garden. No, I've never seen a tire swing in the glossies, but my kids sure do love the one we have.

  8. thank you for your comment on my blog :) i had found your "being ordinary" blog and then your post on mine linked to this which is just the sort of blog I like i am already enjoying the first few posts ive read!! i have a really large garden (about an acre in total - pic at bottom of my blog) and am constantly wondering what on earth to do with it all! have plans for an allotment next year and as is usual have various large primary coloured plastic about the place as well!
    will call back soon ! Lesley x

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    Waiting with curiosity. To know your innovation.

  10. Great post. I think creativity combined with a small budget makes the best/most interesting results. If it is food, making clothes or interior design ehh...and gardening. I like you blog :-) / LOL Tyra

  11. Fun to find your blog. I have two kids ages 5 and 3 and we get along okay in the garden admist the ugly plastic toys. I do all the gardening and do not employ a professional gardener as I am a gardener-for-hire it would seem sort of 'wrong.' I am just realizing that I could go on and on about this subject but to keep it short, my kids seem to enjoy anything that is sensual (fuzzy, smelly) or edible (and fuzzy and smelly). They are worse than the birds when it comes to berries, eating them green and I have to close my eyes when my youngest brings her shovel over to help me in the veggie patch but otherwise, it's fine. Really, just fine. And we also have a working clothes line.