A Playground in The Trees

Location, Location, Location is the golden rule of real-estate that should be applied universally to outbuildings and play structures too.   By putting these buildings in the right place or being blessed with a particularly inviting spot, the mundane can become an extraordinary addition to a property.

scrub oak playgroud

I meant to share this with you ages ago and just remembered (thanks to a visit to my mom’s FB page).  I grew up in Colorado and my parents live there today. They have a a beautiful home with even more beautiful gardens on the side of a hill in Castle Rock. They have stunning views and their property is surrounded with scrub oak. So when my dad decided to build a play area for his grandchildren he genius-ly tucked it into an unused corner of the property, where the scrub oak prevails.

scrub oak play area playground idea jungle gym

scrub oak play area playground idea jungle gym

I think these pictures were taken in the early fall and you can just barely see the structure from the patio view however it it is very close (so you can hear what is is going on) and when the kids are there you can see them because while the scrub oak camouflages the area, it doesn’t completely block it out.   Seeing this project, I am convinced that scrub oak has to be one of the best plants for around play areas.   It provides exactly what I want as a design minded mom, the beauty of a screen with the practicality of still being able to see and monitor the kids.

scrub oak play area playground idea jungle gym

scrub oak play area playground idea jungle gym

This is no kit, my dad is too much of an independent, creative, do-it-yourself-er for that.  He designed this and made it with materials he found at Home Depot so it fits perfectly on the site.

scrub oak play area playground idea jungle gym

scrub oak play area playground idea jungle gym

images all by my mom and the kids are my niece and nephew.

Being in the trees casts a beautiful light around the whole area and on the practical side, the trees help prevent hot slides and sunburns.   Who ever thought that playgrounds should be placed in the center of  heartless gravel pits?  The trees and scrub is so much more fun and  aside from the actual play structure, the kids the have created paths and explored the area in a way they might not have if the whole thing was located in the middle of the grassy area of the yard.

If I were to take the idea and apply it to a garden that doesn’t have natural scrub oak, I would perhaps put the play area amongst a small orchard of fruit trees, or make it surround or include a large existing tree.

What do you think? What are some other ideas for camouflaging but not blocking play areas?  Do you know of, or have built a beautiful play area? I would love to see it….drop me an email.

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rochelle greayer

Hi, I'm Rochelle and for 18 years I have worked as a landscape designer, author/writer, and design teacher. I've designed residential and hospitality (for hotels, restaurants, and spas) gardens across the USA and in the UK, Europe and the Middle East. After many years of teaching garden design topics in person, I launched the PITH + VIGOR Boot Camp series in early 2018. Through my blog, social media, and online courses (Garden Design Bootcamp and Planting Design Boot Camp) I aim to help homeowners learn how to confidently design and create home gardens that reflect their own personal and unique style.


  1. Sprout on August 9, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    We had woods – and a swing set, at the edge of the woods. Used to swing high till my feet could “touch” the leaves on the trees!

  2. Laura Livengood Schaub (InterLeafer) on August 9, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    Rochelle, this is fantastic! Having a handy, do-it-yourself father myself, who built us many a killer play structure, I can really appreciate this. I don’t like play areas to look like fast-food restaurants, and if I have trees to work with, a raised tree house is hands-down the favorite. Kids love to be up high! My dad once built us a small playhouse, and our favorite place was on the roof! This design shows such a sensitivity to the space, and as it ages it will look like it’s growing out of the scrub oak, nice. Thank you! lls

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