Gardens to Drive For: Children’s Gardens

Pierce’s Park in Baltimore, Maryland

By Teresa WoodardOn a recent family getaway to Baltimore, Md., I was reminded of the appeal of public children’s gardens for kids of all ages.  Even our teens loved the willow tunnel at Pierce’s Park near the city’s inner harbor.  Here’s a list of favorite children’s gardens to explore in the Midwest:

  • Bookworm Gardens (Sheboygan, Wisc.) — Literary ties with an alphabet flower garden, a Secret Garden, a Hansel and Gretel style cottage, a Peter Rabbit vegetable garden, a sunflower house and a Magic Treehouse.
  • Children’s Discovery Garden at Wegerzyn Gardens (Dayton, Ohio) — Don’t miss the new maze by willow sculptor Patrick Dougherty.
  • Children’s Garden at Morton Arboretum (Lisle, Ill.) — Secret streams, colossal acorns for climbing, and giant tree root slides and more to play and explore the natural world.
  • Frederick Meijer Gardens (Grand Rapids, Mich.) — A sensory garden, a Great Lakes garden, a fossil filled rock quarry, a labyrinth and a wetlands with a kid-sized beaver dam.
  • Garfield Park Children’s Garden (Indianapolis, Ind.) — Colorfully painted tractor tires as raised beds, fun scarecrows and other clever ideas for vegetable gardening with kids.

    Garfield Park Children’s Gardens, Indianapolis, Ind.

  • Hershey Children’s Garden at Cleveland Botanical Gardens (Cleveland, Ohio) — A scrounger garden, cave, dwarf forests, worm bins, tree house and sensory-filled herb garden.
  • Schnuck Children’s Garden at Missouri Botanical Gardens (St. Louis, Mo.) — History comes to life with a limestone cave, a steamboat and a Midwestern prairie village.
  • The Sisters’ Garden at Inniswood Metro Gardens (Westerville, Ohio) — A lovely blend of natural and constructed garden places.
  • Smiley Park Children’s Park (Van Wert, Ind. ) — A Master gardeners’ project with a butterfly garden.
  • Topiary Park (Columbus, Ohio) — A topiary interpretation of George Seurat’s famous painting A Sunday Afternoon on t

5 responses to “Gardens to Drive For: Children’s Gardens

  1. Thanks for including the Children’s Garden at Garfield Park in Indianapolis. Last year it received the first Jim Wilson Award from Garden Writers Association to honor the mentoring and education of future gardeners and naturalists the Children’s Garden provides. It also has an active, registered Monarch Waystation. The Children’s Garden is in Garfield Park, Indianapolis’ oldest city park, designed by George Kessler. The Sunken Garden and Fountains will celebrate its 100th anniversary of its dedication in 2016. Garfield also has a Conservatory, rich with tropicals, including many food plants, such as cocoa and banana; an arts center with regular exhibits; a family center with swimming pool; and several spots for picnics. The whole park system is on the National Register of Historic Places.

    • Debra Knapke

      I loved visiting Garfield Park and the Children’s Garden last year on one of the tours at the Garden Writers conference. The volunteers, children and adults, were obviously proud of their garden, and rightly so. I took many pictures and saw a few ideas that I will use in my own garden.

  2. Chris Deacon

    Hi Teresa and friends. Chris Deacon (Brad’s sister) here again. Just checking if you are familiar with Phoenix Home and Garden magazine. There’s an article in this month’s featuring edible front yards – you can apparently do that in the desert too! Just thought you’d find it interesting! And it’s a beautiful magazine. Keep up the good work – your entries are always interesting!

  3. Thanks, Chris. Tamar Rudavsky sent a link to another interesting link on an edible front yard that was facing potential fines for violating a neighborhood’s code. They’ve even started a petition to change the law. See

  4. Michael Leach

    Like Debra, I too visited the Garfield Park Children’s Garden last summer as part of the Garden Writers Association’s symposium. My favorite memory is of a boy, about 11, who gave enthusiastic and knowledgeable explanations of what was in the garden. I was reminded of some of the children I worked with as a master gardener volunteer at a rec center in a rough part of town. Sometimes I think it was the positive attention from an adult, as much as making things grow, that made gardening fun.

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