Homeschooling: It's not what we do, it's how we live.

Living Playhouse

Sunday morning I went over to my BFF’s house for coffee and brunch (she made this and cooked up some deer link sausage – so tasty. She’s an amazing portrait photographer; here’s her Facebook page – tell her I sent you!). During the course of the afternoon, she mentioned that they were about to plant sunflowers for a living playhouse.

Naturally, being the curious and sometimes copycat crafter that I am, this piqued my interest. I’d never heard of such a thing, so we got online and started looking them up. They’re so nifty! When I was little, we used to make play-spaces underneath bushes and in low to the ground trees, but I’d never thought of actually creating a frame and then planting or encouraging vines to cover it to make a playhouse.

Loverly Husband and I have seen the websites that ‘grow’ furniture and art pieces many times. We have a couple of mimosa trees in the backyard that he intertwined to make an archway, and the kids have adopted that space as a fort-making spot. It’s had several different versions of a base (of operations, I presume), but they recently vacated it for another corner of the yard (leaving a huge hole in their wake…) so I thought that this would be the perfect spot to try to make a playhouse since we already had the arched mimosas.

Now, we wait… and hope that in a yard that is positively teeming with vine growth, the frame will not be the only vine-free spot. Actually, I guess ours is more of an arbor of sorts. We’ll not have sides per-se – more just a lovely shady spot once the flowers and vines grow up.

Once you have the basic idea in place, there are infinite ways in which to accomplish this project. I hardly think you’d need a step by step process, but here’s what we did: We have box hedges that have just grown wild. They make lovely straight and flexible stalks, so I cut a bunch of them to make the corners. PeaGreen and I dug holes and planted the stalks, two in each hole. We also used several mimosa branches that were out of place (we have a bunch of those, too), then bent the stalks together to create the arches. I used a few plastic zip ties to hold some of the more stubborn/sturdy branches in place, then added more cut branches on top of the structure. I used cotton string to create the framework for the vines to follow and to secure the rest of the branches in place.

We planted two types of sunflowers (American Giant Hybrid & Summer Evening Mix from Burpee) and climbing sweet peas (Early Multiflora Mixed Colors) around the legs of the arbor, and we have a ton of fast-growing vines all over our yard, so I dug up a few and replanted at the base of the vines as well. Since they grow so fast, we should have a fully shaded arbor in a few weeks while we wait for the flowers to grown and bloom. We also have several wisteria vines around; I may see if I can relocate a couple onto our frame. They smell so good this time of year and have such pretty purple flowers; that will make a fragrant and shady little hideaway when summer really hits.

Total cost: $6 (for the seeds). I could not believe that this was so inexpensive. We had everything already here. That, plus a little bit of work (we still have to fill in the hole in the ground) and add a blanket and a few pillows and we’ll have a great little spot to read or just relax in. All in all, this is one of our faster projects – the whole thing was up and planted in a few hours (over the course of 2 days). You could take as long as you want with it, but I’m a fan of instant gratification.

Here are some links if you’re interested in seeing how else they can be made:

BecomingDomestic: How to build a living willow dome playhouse for under $40

NatureMom’s Blog:  Gardening Inspiration for Children

Sunzilla Sunflowers They were bred to grow 12-16 feet tall – imagine how cool that would be for the kids to play under!

Kiddie Gardens Bean_Teepee I’m intrigued by the idea of a completely enclosed space, and the beanpole teepees are super cute – we may make one out of bamboo stalks in the near future. I could see the need/delight in each of the boys having their own creative and created space. There’s another example at Artful Parent: Beanpole Teepee.

The willow playhouses are neat too, unfortunately, I don’t know anyone with willow trees that we could help trim… AcornPies’ Willow Playhouse is really cute.

Anyone else making a living playhouse this summer?




4 responses

  1. We just went to a garden center in England that had willow huts and the kids got to explore. Very neat. Haven’t seen the sunflower one

    March 23, 2011 at 1:54 am

    • They look so cute! Great for little kids, I think – unless you get the mammoth sunflowers – that would be pretty cool!

      March 24, 2011 at 1:00 pm

  2. This is so great! I tried this two years ago and ours did not turn into a living playhouse… I think I planted way too late in the season. Last year we had sunflowers along the garage, but we decided to try again with the playhouse this year. We’ll see if we have any better luck! lol =)

    March 24, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    • Oh, cool! Blog it with pictures so I cna see!! 🙂

      March 24, 2011 at 1:00 pm

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