02 Nov Secret Gardens

Picture a winding path of weathered stone weaving through a leafy bower of trees before disappearing around a bend. Following the curve of the path, you stumble upon a wall of green – a tall yew hedge, with a fragrant rambling rose sprawled over the top, hinting at the mysteries that lie within. As you slowly push open the rusted gate, you sense a figure by the flower laden lilacs. You turn to look, but no one is there.

Magical Retreats

There is something about a secret garden that lends itself to flights of fancy. In a world of cell phones, disposable plastic and constant noise, what could be more appealing than a magical retreat? A retreat hidden in your backyard – filled with old world charms and a sense of age and permanence. While we imagine such a garden on the ground of a grand estate like Longwood Gardens, it is often smaller homes on smaller lots that provide some of the best settings for secret gardens. Tiny backyards enclosed by buildings and privacy fences already offer a sense of seclusion. And manmade barriers can be softened by the greenery of climbing plants, stands of fragrant flowers and the delicate leaves of small ornamental trees.

Large Lot – No Problem

If you have a larger lot, your secret garden can be created around a structure, such as a gazebo or pool house. It can even find a home at the end of a well-worn path where a welcoming bench is tucked beneath a vine covered trellis or pergola. You can enclose your larger garden with tall hedges, wooden fences or brick walls. Evergreen walls can be created with yews, arborvitae or western red cedar. Deciduous hedges can be formed from maples or burning bush. Other options include flowering shrubs such as privet and viburnum. These can be planted to  create walls filled with flowers that give way to a bounty of fruit.

Add Plants and Whimsy

Once you’ve established a sense of privacy, use plants and ornaments to decorate your secret garden room. Drape the wall with flowering vines and carpet the floor with ground covers such as creeping thyme. To add an element of romance, include some fragrant plants and shrubs. Old rose varieties, French lilacs trumpet lilies and cottage pinks are just a few options. And don’t forget about old fashioned flowers such as hollyhocks, peonies and irises. Add artful touches – a sundial, stone birdbath or a whimsical garden sculpture. Don’t forget to add a comfortable place to sit. While fanciful chairs of bent branches are aesthetically pleasing, more comfortable seating choices include a swing, hammock or Adirondack chair.

A Special Place to Relax

Including a winding path that leads to your garden will heighten the sense of anticipation, especially if you add highlights along the way. A small statue tucked among some ferns, a mirrored gazing ball that reflects the bold leaves of a hosta or a simple opening in the garden wall that reveals a small fountain are just a few ideas. Use your imagination and create your dream place to relax. For after all, an important part of the mystery and magic of a secret garden is the pleasure of the journey and the excitement of discovery.