Besides gorging oneself on raspberries, one of the best things about having a garden is sharing it with friends. We enjoy having people over in the summer to eat, drink and chill out on the deck. The garden is also a great place to entertain small visitors and there are many features in our yard that appeal to kids including a dirt pile, hoses, the tree house, and wild strawberries.
Last week friends came over and brought along adorable two-and-a-half year old twins, Sam and Ellie. We all had a great time; the adults sipped coffee in the shade, and the small ones picked strawberries, raspberries and beans, ate unripe apples and dug in the dirt. They both climbed up into the tree house and then they had fun with the hoses, pretending to water the plants and scooping the fake fish out of the bird bath. There was a huge amount of excitement when the water was finally turned on: Ellie kept spraying her brother, and they both laughed hysterically. Sam finally figured out how to use the spray attachment and sprayed his sister back (albeit with less happy results). Here is a short youtube.
The visit was FABULOUS. Sam and Ellie are welcome to come over again anytime, and can bring along their Mom and Auntie for more drinks in the shade. I wish I could say that all visits were this fun, but I have to admit that there have been one or two specific occasions (cough, cough) when things have gone spectacularly wrong and I’ve wished for a large swarms of giant insects to take certain guests away forever. But enough about that.
Reflecting on Sam and Ellie’s visit, here are some things that they did right, which are good general guidelines for future visits.
Do bring some toys. Often, families with big kids no longer have any small-kid toys, so it is always a good thing to bring along a favorite truck or toy. Sam brought along a whole arsenal of trucks.
Do check before you dig. What looks like just a pile of dirt may be a freshly seeded area or may contain bulbs, manure or other buried “yuck” elements. We are lucky to have a large stockpile of clean dirt for people to play in.
Watch where you step. While there are many good places to play, sometimes there are beds or areas where hands and feet don’t belong. Although rock gardens seem like fun, they are often planted with rare or delicate plants. I was proud of Sam and Ellie for always walking on the paths and stairs rather than through the rock garden.
Do feel free to taste what is offered. It can be fun to try fresh berries, fruits and vegetables picked right out of the garden. Make sure you ask before helping yourself. Some produce needs to be washed or checked for bugs before being eaten, and you don’t want to find out that you’ve picked a prize vegetable after the fact.
Do ask before turning on the water. Hoses and sprinklers can provide hours of entertainment, and many gardeners appreciate ‘help’ with watering veggies and flowers. Water fights are fun, but do try to avoid spraying cats, drying laundry, tents, books, magazines, wine glasses or other things that may be in the garden. Ask before using water balloons or other projectiles.
Don’t pick flowers or grasses without checking first. Again, that ornamental grass may be someone’s pride and joy. Don’t risk it.
Don’t pull up any stakes or other plant supports to use as spears or swords. Oops, flashback! I don’t know why visitors do this, but it happens a lot. Needless to say, Ellie and Sam did not do this.
Be considerate of pets. Our cat is normally wary of visitors, but because Ellie moved slowly and was very gentle, she was able to pet Miss Kitty.
After Sam and Ellie left, a mysterious elf-like set of footprints remained on our deck. We finally figured out that these prints were from Ellie standing completely still while her mom sprayed her with sunscreen. So cute – we laughed. The footprints have started to fade, but the good memories of that visit haven’t.