Article : The Children's Garden

The Children's Garden

By Nancy Hardwick

The hardscape features 12 yards of Mesa Buff-colored concrete (from Davis Concrete) finished with a light acid wash. The acid washing produced an even, sand-textured finish. The total hardscape covers 800 square feet. To shield the area from the parking lot, the contractor planted a 6-foot hedge of ligustrum japonica Texanum (privet). Photos courtesy of Netafim USA and Garden Studio Design

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Chris Fenmore of Garden Studio Design in Newport Beach, CA, took a previously closed-off courtyard and transformed it into a 50 x 50-foot landscaped site, renamed The Children's Sun and Sea Discovery Garden. Located at the Newport Beach Public Library in southern California, the $150,000 garden was designed as a learning center for 3- to 7-year-olds.

The contractor installed 800 feet of Netafim Techline(R) CV belowgrade throughout the garden. A Rain Bird controller oversees the irrigation system.

Fenmore envisioned the garden differently from her fellow designers when she entered a Design Challenge sponsored by the Friends of the Newport Beach Public Library. Fenmore designed the venue as a ''discovery'' site for youngsters and wove in a nautical theme. She created a plan with group and individual seating pods, a water feature, boxwood maze, winding seashore-themed path and anchor-point mosaics.

According to Fenmore, ''The Friends preferred the garden design because it addresses children on a more sophisticated level, offering them opportunities to explore and learn or listen and learn, rather than relying on play equipment.''

Sunburst mosaic was created with smooth beach pebbles. Low boxwood hedges create a pathway maze that leads to the fountain. Colorful sea creatures are featured on hand-painted ceramic tiles that were placed in the pathway maze.


One of the few requests made by the Friends and the City of Newport Beach was that the garden be equipped with a low-volume irrigation system to minimize overspray and help conserve water.

''Overspray is not an issue with dripline and water goes directly to the root zones for more efficient coverage,'' explained Fenmore. ''The contractor installed 800 feet of Netafim Techline CV below grade throughout the garden, and wired it to a Rain Bird controller.''

Technical features also made the dripline irrigation system practical: The flexible 17mm irrigation tubing has check valves in each dripper for equalized watering. Continuous self-flushing meant the lines would stay debris-free and require less maintenance. Pressure compensation allowed equal amounts of water delivered over a broad pressure range, and a physical root barrier protects the internal system from root intrusion.

The fountain also has smooth pebble mosaic insets, and features a 1-horsepower Advantage Pump, which the contractor installed in an underground vault. The pump receives its power via conduit from an existing electrical sub-panel.


The planting palette was designed to be low maintenance and features boxwood hedges, buxus japonica (Green Beauty) and a taller hedge of ligustrum japonica Texanum (privet) to screen an adjoining parking lot. Ceramic pots were planted with dwarf olives and echervia. Fenmore also specified Feijoa (pineapple guava) trees for shade.

The planting palette was designed to be low maintenance and features boxwood hedges, buxus japonica (Green Beauty). Seating pods are shaded with umbrellas and create outdoor story time areas. Cushions are placed on the seat walls when children congregate. All vertical surfaces and seating areas were faced with Cameron Ledge Stone in a ''dry stack.''

Seat Walls & Fountain

Vertical surfaces, seat walls and seating areas were faced with Cameron Ledge stone in a ''dry stack.'' The on-site construction, which included hand-detailed mosaic work, took six workers one month to complete. Fenmore designed the solid concrete fountain, which is detailed with smooth beach pebble inlays, as well as a seashell ledge.

The soil was prepped with gypsum and finished with microbark.


The hand-laid sunburst pattern in the hardscape also features smooth beach pebbles while a sea-blue mosaic of rolling waves circles the story time pod. A directional compass points out North, South, East and West. Hand-painted ocean-themed tiles are placed along the maze walkway. The tiles were designed by Fenmore and fabricated by Concept Studios of Corona del Mar, California.

''We intentionally kept the garden design simple,'' explained Fenmore. ''The plants are a backdrop for elements that I thought would intrigue the children, like the shellfish tiles, the maze, the fountain and their personal journey of discovery as they learn the joy of reading.''

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June 28, 2016, 3:44 am EST

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