It was seven years ago that I removed all the plastic play structures from the yard and began creating a more natural play space. In 2010 I added the ‘hill’ but it never really became the what I had envisioned. I had used logs to create ‘steps’ on three sides of the hill and intended that the children would actually climb on the hill;
I chose hardy native prairie plants that I hoped would stand up to the traffic I expected there would be. Over the years I have planted 10 varieties of native plants here but only the Pasture Sage and the Giant Hyssop have adapted well. I do love the Pasture Sage but the Giant Hyssop has been a bit of an annoyance. It has spread all over the hill and surrounding areas – I believe it has driven out most of the other plants I liked better.
It has also made climbing the hill impossible. The Hyssop grows so tall and thick that it hinders playing on the hill. It also attracts a lot of bees which we do like to watch as they work but we don’t want to bother them. So the hill is mostly just a tunnel and a bridge but even those are difficult to use if I don’t continually hack off and tie back hyssop overgrowth to the point where it doesn’t even look pretty anymore.
In the past I have used various trellises to control the Hyssop but ultimately these just create more barriers around the hill. In fact, I don’t think any of the children even think the hill could/should be climbed on. Last year another issue developed too with the stumps that I had arranged randomly throughout the gravel area around the hill. Here you can see the trellis barriers and the stumps;
Yes, I do like the way that looks but it did not function well. There was not a lot of space between the stumps for the digging/building projects the children enjoy. The school-age children would race leaping from stump to stump as quickly as possible and they were not very observant about where the little ones were walking/playing. The little ones were not able to anticipate and avoid the route the older children were planning to take because there were several options. Attempting to copy the older children some of the younger ones were beginning to take risks that were far greater than their abilities. I was spending far too much time redirecting play – something I don’t like to do.
So, I arranged all the stumps in a half-circle with each end reaching a different side of the hill;
The stump path is now defined and they are close enough together that most of the preschoolers can manage them all. The older children have other options to challenge themselves – all of them require some self control and precision instead of speed and distance. One option that they enjoy is using the smaller tree cookies to create shortcuts across the circle.
There is now also a large gravel area for group digging/building projects if that is what the children want to do. The area in the center of the circle also makes a good corral/cage for their dramatic play activities. The half circle stump path becomes a full circle when you notice what I did to the hill. Side one;
and side two;
My inspiration to add rocks to the hill came from this playground in Oslo. I was originally planning to cement the rocks in place like they did but our little hill is not very steep and the rocks seem secure in the soil. For now I will leave it like this – besides, I’m curious what the native plants will do next spring. I may add some other small, rock garden type plants too.
Full circle – rock on;