How to create a ‘secret garden’ of your own
Create a Secret Garden
This Spring (2020), a new movie version of “The Secret Garden” will be in theaters across the country. Based on the classic 1911 children’s novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, its almost guaranteed to bring about a renewed interest in gardening and garden design.
While the story has very little to do with actual gardening, what it does do is tug on our imagination. In fact, the Gilmour company, the makers of sprinklers and hoses, lists “secluded places ” as a top design trend of 2020. Just the title alone whets the appetite for private hide-aways in our own backyards. While that may not seem to too “enchanting” on the surface, the possibilities are endless. With a little creativity, you can turn a small corner in the barest of yards into another realm.
It’s easy to create a simple, secret garden
So, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the words “secret garden”? If you’re reading this, chances are that you’re already wondering how to do something like this? And what it would take to pull it off? You’ve definitely come to the right place!
The good news is that it’s not all that difficult to create a “secret garden”. Perhaps you already have a spot in mind that would be perfect. Maybe all it needs is a comfortable place to sit.
But don’t just think about yourself. Secret Gardens are meant to be shared with someone special. Wouldn’t this be a fun and interactive project you could do with your kids or the grandkids? It’s a great opportunity to introduce them to gardening and enjoy some personal one-on-one time. It won’t require that much effort to make a little nook for a private little tea party!
The keys to a great secret garden
The “key” to creating a secret garden is “secret“. But it has more to do with the idea of “hidden” rather than “secret”. And includes a moderate dose of mystique.
Fortunately, it doesn’t need to be very big. So, look for a place around the yard or side of the house. Someplace with a little alcove or recess that might offer a kind of hideaway. If available, a space with a wall or fence will provide some instant structure.
But it also doesn’t need to be boxed in. A semi-private spot just around the corner of the house will do just fine.
Caption: A semi-private spot just around the corner will do just fine!
Secret gardens are not hard or complex, so remember to keep it simple, easy and doable. And fun, too, by the way! Let’s see what we can accomplish given what we already have on hand. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised once you get started.
The main components to create a Secret Garden are these:
A sense of privacy
An entry point
A comfortable place to sit
plants, flowers, decorative accents
After you’ve picked a location, the next step is to create a sense of privacy.
1. Create a sense of ‘privacy’
Look for ways to create a bit of privacy. You can use an actual outdoor privacy screen, but there are many ways to get creative and go easy on your wallet as well.
A few ways to achieve outdoor privacy:
Old bi-fold closet doors Paint up some old bi-fold closet doors. Here you can go as whimsical as you like. You might find some cheap doors at a Habitat Re-store Center. Treat them with an exterior wood sealer for protection from the weather so it will last longer.
Lattice Plastic lattice from the hardware store is very inexpensive. You won’t need a lot… you’re only making a little partition to create a semi-private space. Then, if you wish, you can hang decor from it or train a vine to climb up it. Lattice is paintable as well. If you want something other than white, just choose your favorite color.
Remember, it’s your “secret garden” after all. So let it reflect your style and personality!
Hang curtains or drapes Rig up a system to suspend rod & pocket style curtains or drapes “Pavilion style”. Make a wood frame with 2x4s or plastic plumbing conduit. You can even hang something over a tree branch. For a small space, try shower curtains–the fabric ones. A shower curtain cost less and may be all you need. Check the thrift stores, too! If you’re good at sewing, you could make one yourself.
Living hedges, shrubs, vines It’s a garden after all so why not incorporate your hedge if you have one? Or, what about a pea vine, ivy, nasturtium or other vine or trailing plant? You can also use small ornamental shrubs or vertical growing trees in containers like arborvitae (thuja or juniper) placed close together to achieve a similar hedge effect.
Be patient. Some plants and hedges take time to fully mature. It’s perfectly OK for your “secret garden” to be a work in progress. In fact, it’s even better that way!
2. Create an entrance with mystique
Caption: use an old door from a salvage dealer
Secret Gardens are more intriguing with an entryway that beckons one to walk through it to see what’s on the other side. A passageway gives the feel of moving from one space into another.
The right style of entrance will have quite an impact on the character of your “secret garden”. That could be a real door, like one from a salvage or antique dealer. Or a metal or wooden garden gate or even a chain-link gate. Other great doorways can be created using a trellis or archway. Let your imagination run wild!
3. A comfy place to sit
You’ll probably want to tarry a while in your “secret garden” especially after you’ve put a bit of love into creating it. So treat yourself to a comfortable place to relax. That could be a lawn chair or a little bench. Add some pillows in your favorite colors. If there’s room, think about adding a small outdoor cafe/bistro set.
Ideally, a secret garden should be a peaceful, secluded refuge for reading, reflection or meditation. If possible, make it the one area of the house/yard that’s off-limits to mobile devices. Allow it to be a unique place. There’s something precious to experience in un-distracted moments of quiet solitude.
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4. Plants, flowers, decorative accents
Surround your little secret garden space with lots of potted plants and hanging baskets. You can even make your flower dollar go further by using artificial ones from garage sales or thrift stores. They’ll blend right in. But be sure they are plastic and not the silk type which are not as water- resistant in an outdoors setting.
Decorate your space with whimsical accent pieces so it has some personality. Consider things like wooden garden signs, ceramic teapots, or birdhouses, fantasy figurines such as fairies, elves unicorns –or your favorite things. Hang decorative objects on a wall or fence if you have one. Or add a little shelf, or table to set things on.
Some final thoughts
A “secret garden” is so captivating. I hope you’ve got some ideas rolling around in your mind that you can do this summer. Remember that 1) it doesn’t have to be big. 2) Creating a sense of privacy is simple with a partial hedge, a piece of lattice or even curtains. 3) An enticing entryway can be accomplished with something as basic as a trellis or arbor. 4) Add plants and a few decorative accent pieces.
It’s projects like this that stimulate our imagination and creativity. And also part of what makes gardens attractive and inviting places for spending time. That’s why a secret garden is on my ‘to do’ list. I hope you’ll try one, too!
“And he walks with me and he talks with me, and he tells me I am his own. And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.” In the Garden, C. Austin Miles, 1912
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It’s not all that hard to create a secret garden of your own. Learn some simple keys that turn a little spot in the yard or garden into special place.