10 Things Kids Want in a Garden as Voted by Kids

by Kerry Cue

Sibylesque Valerie Andrews Quote

According to the NY Times (Screen addition is taking its toll on children, Jane Brody, 6 July, 2015) screen time is eating away children’s lives. We, The Sibyls, are so concerned we have asked the question ‘How did childhood become a prison sentence’ and what can we, grandparents, do about it? One answer is, grandchildren need more time in the outdoors. But we also need to listen to the kids.

I went to a talk by Michelle Rayner,environmental educator and Vice Principal Patch Primary School, Victoria. thepatchbanner Before the school developed a substantial part of their garden they asked not only what the kids wanted in a garden but they also asked the kids to design it. The patch students at work Here are the 10 things the kids wanted in a garden:

  1. Water
  2. Animals
  3. Place to Build Stuff
  4. Maze
  5. A meeting place & stage
  6. Pizza oven and garden
  7. Artwork
  8. Secluded spaces (hideyholes)
  9. Edible plants
  10. Play space

Here is a video of The Patch School’s kid-friendly, Eco-garden:The Learning Landscape

The garden now boasts a frog bog (water), ducks, chickens, rabbits and mice,

Students from the Patch with chickens

a construction area (Even 5 year olds use hammers),

Young students use a hammer

a native grass maze, central meeting place and stage, pizza oven and garden (Michelle has cooked a hundred pizzas in one day!!!), student sculptures and other art works, a willow den (like below) , fruit trees and a veggie patch, and lots of play spaces.

willow den 1 Photo source: The Patch Website, screen grabs from above video, pinterest.

Link: Quote Top from A Passion for this Earth,Valerie Andrews.


The kids have left; the dog has died. Is it time to downsize?

by Helen Elliott

Sibylesque Monet quoteWe decided to downsize. The children had left, the dogs had died, as had one cat. The other was thinking about it. The garden, my adored, beloved garden was making me anxious and there was the problem of Upstairs. Upstairs, where the children had lived so happily all those years was now where I hurled anything I didn’t use but was too lazy to pitch out. Or sentimental. Upstairs was over my head. I never went there if I could help it but it hovered, symbolic of a paralysing weight .

So why not sell when someone knocked on the door, said they were in love with your house and garden and here’s an offer you can’t refuse. We didn’t. In three months we were in a flat.

Garden mount-macedon

Oh. What do you do with a grandchild in a flat? Sure, we could walk in the Botanical gardens, find playgrounds, sit in cafes, go to museums. But something was shockingly out of kiltre. These lovely places were public, not personal. I couldn’t say: “Grandma planted that kolkwitzia twenty years ago”. Why was I waking in tears every morning, dreaming of my old garden? And why did I feel my hands and feet were cut off, disabled by my inability to step out onto the earth and into that intimate natural space I had been creating for over two decades?

Helen in her garden

Helen in her garden

Life is change, I know this. But my change was in the wrong direction. I heard that word “de-natured” and everything made sense. Without nature at my door I was a shadow of myself. It made me think hard about nature in the lives of my small grand children.

Two years, two flats later we decided to upsize. An acre, a tranquil house, a stream, a pond, a vegetable garden. I have never been happier. And the grandchildren know about this thrilling thing called The Country.


Helen Elliot 2Helen Elliott is a thoughtful and analytical reader, informed and soulful writer and unyielding literary critic for many Australian newspapers. She is also a dedicated gardener.


Part-time Goddess of the Garden

by Honey Clarke

Purple Quote blank large

The Chooks  by Honey Clarke

The Chooks
by Honey Clarke

I’m feeling frightfully bucolic right now. A bit like Ceres, goddess of crops tripping sylph-like through the fields, triggering all she touches into life. Winter in the Crater is the best time of the year for vegie greens and my vegies are a vision to behold. Gardening holds such power for change.

Please don’t think that I’m one of those green thumbs, who plants by the moon, grows an abundance of flowers and harvests pumpkins as huge as my head. In summer Mother Nature rides rough shod over me with her ride-on mower and I manage to save some things in her wake. But in winter, when bugs head north and possums seem to have plenty I am Goddess of the Garden.

It wasn’t always so. My turning point came in the 1990s when I had to start a garden from scratch and I discovered Gardening Australia. Here before me was garden porn for the desperate and undeserving. All the things I fantasized about apparently were there at my fingertips.

Sketch of Honey planting seed

Sketch of Honey planting seed

It was revolutionary how little was needed to make life come anew. I followed blindly. When Jane propagated I snipped tips off everything. Col saved seeds; I saved seeds too. Oh and I knew what Peter meant as he sniffed his compost, threatening to put it on his muesli. Truly, it was so “bloomin’ ” marvelous. The miracle of life in seed or sprig meant whole worlds opened up for me.

Okay my “tip-pruning” took on an unhealthy twist. My kids groaned as I drove twice around the roundabouts looking at new plants and they threatened they’d leave if I whipped out my secateurs one more time at the MacDonald’s drive-thru. In the end, our house block that was once a triumph of clay ended up a lovely garden and my zealotry tempered with time.

Plenty of people realize the power of the plant. Stories of generosity flourish including: fruit and vegetable swaps where garden wisdom is exchanged as well; towns where they help the homeless by swapping vegetables for collecting waste; community gardens that burst with produce and vibrant community, and movements like Landshare where those with land share their spaces with those who haven’t any, to grow food. How powerful is that!

So there are times in summer when it’s cheaper to buy a box of tomatoes than to grow one, but the thrill of that little green shoot promises so much. I’m following the footsteps of those who have come before me and planting possibilities for the season to come.


Honey Clarke

Honey Clarke

Honey Clarke lives on the side of a mountain in an extinct crater lake with her partner, the Rock Doctor. She’s an artist, writer and teacher who encapsulates the essence of life in the quick strokes of paint or pen. Honey has two grown up kids and seven grandchildren. She is part-owner in a bamboo farm. She would like to say her hobbies are kite-surfing and abseiling but that would be a lie. Instead she reads, swims, travels, paints and blogs as much as possible. Honey’s blog is Honeyclarkeart. To inquire about Honey Clarke’s art, books or illustraoins contact her at: honeyclarkeartATgmail.com

Other posts by Honey include: Some Grandmas are Wild Things

Gemma Sisia has a big dream to fight poverty through education.

Gemma Sisia has a big dream to fight poverty through education.


The charity that she and the Rock Doctor champion is St Judes in Tanzania, a brilliant school educating kids out of poverty.



Photo Source: Honey Clarke’s Blog and St Jude’s Website.