Bay Tree Design recently collaborated with two organizations: the public agency StopWaste and the non-profit Trees for Oakland Flatlands, to develop a plant resource guide for Bay Area schoolyards and children's landscapes located in Sunset Zone 17. Plants are an easy way to enrich the children's spaces when thoughtfully chosen.
This resource provides a list of plants that considers adult perspectives - such as code compliance, low maintenance, durability, performative and ecological value, and beauty - as well as play and learning affordances for children. Children see plants as learning elements, play props, scenery, scale, texture, harbingers of change, and the "feeling" of a space.
One excellent example of plant and tree use in a schoolyard is Coombes in England. When Sue Humphries was the Head Mistress, she had all of the trees maintained to the scale of the children. The main play yard was mostly paved with asphalt, yet the tree branches overhung the asphalt and were trimmed to the height of the children. This created a magical effect and a much different feeling of the space. The children could pick leaves to play with, "hide" under the trees, and play in the dappled shade.
With this list, we try to provide the plants and trees suited to our own East Bay microclimate that can be used to create the kind of children’s space available at Coombes.
Enjoy this resource and use it to enrich the spaces in your schoolyard for the adults and the children who inhabit them.