From Gardener's Supply (

Working Mom Creates an Easy-Care,
Kid-Friendly Garden

Carolyn Cornett
Because much of her yard is shaded by oak trees, Carolyn Cornett grows many shade-tolerant plants.

Carolyn Cornett of Teaneck, N.J., is a very busy woman. She has an active veterinarian business and is a single mother of 7- and 9-year-olds. She's also an avid gardener and wants to get her kids excited about gardening at a young age. "I have fond memories of growing up on a farm and want my children to have a taste of that life as well," says Carolyn. Her 50 x 125-foot suburban yard is low-maintenance by necessity, but with her kids in mind she's also made it multi-functional and fun.

Keeping the Garden Maintained

Though Carolyn's yard is small, she has crammed in many gardens. Large oak trees dominate the yard and shade much of the property, so she grows holly, ferns, hostas and other shade lovers in these darker areas and saves the sunny spots for vegetables and flowers, such as peonies, lilies and lilacs. One of the sunny spots is a small vegetable plot with tomatoes, peppers and eggplants that her kids help her harvest. Unfortunately, the neighborhood woodchuck frequently helps himself as well.


In Carolyn's flower garden, she uses metal flower supports to keep the taller perennials off the ground. "The peony-sized grow-through supports are a great way to keep my flowers upright because I often forget to stake them. Once the flowers open up, it's usually too late," says Carolyn. She finds the Single-Stem Flower Supports do a good job of keeping her lilies from flopping over during summer thunderstorms.

Carolyn doesn't have much time to weed, so she has installed landscape edging around her beds and walkways in both the front and back yards. "The edging has been in the ground for seven years and it still works great," she says. "I tried cedar shakes for a while but they broke and I had to rip them all up. This landscape edging is so tough that the garbage men roll their garbage cans over it weekly and it's still okay," she says. Carolyn uses the edging to keep the grass and weeds from encroaching into her gardens, as well as to keep woodchips from spreading onto the walkways.

On her deck she has annual flowers, such as geraniums, ageratum and impatiens in self-watering planters. "I have about ten self-watering planters and they're wonderful because I only have to water once a week," says Carolyn. "I don't have time to run around with a hose to water all the pots. The self-watering containers are the perfect solution," she says. Sprinklers, which run on a timer, help her keep some of the other garden areas watered.

The Kids' Garden
"The Woods" is a special area just for the kids.

Making her gardens child-friendly is Carolyn's other big priority. She has created a children's garden in the backyard where her kids help grow flowers and wildflowers. They plant a variety of flowers from seed and enjoy the surprise of seeing what flowers come up and what colors they are. "My kids also like to watch the wildlife, such as the butterflies, that get attracted to the butterfly bush or the woodchuck that loves their vegetables," says Carolyn.

The shade gardens are loaded with plants and there are also a few "garden characters" hiding in the foliage. She has several 2-foot-tall statues of children that keep watch on the plants and delight the kids in the neighborhood. "I like to change up the arrangement of the statues every so often and have it look like they're playing games like hide and seek," says Carolyn. "It makes the garden fun and interesting for the kids," she says.

Carolyn has also created an area called "the woods" with a playhouse and grape arbor. "It reminds my kids of grandma's house in the country," says Carolyn. "It's important to me for my kids to learn about and enjoy nature," she says. Even though it's a small yard, there's always plenty to keep her daughter and son engaged. "This garden is a nurturing place for all of us."

Last updated: 10/24/15