An Enchanted Garden – “Where you tend a rose my lad, a thistle cannot grow.” Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

It’s no secret that a gorgeous garden can elicit feelings of serenity and tranquility. Secret gardens are small places perfect for quiet contemplation, enjoying a good book or even a snooze. If you need inspiration for how to create one yourself, we suggest you go on a local garden tour this spring.

waterfallJust like in the novel, a secret garden should be a somewhat hidden space – perhaps behind an entranceway or door. It could also have a water feature, seating, and of course, it should be full of colour
and texture.

Since you don’t want to keep the area an absolute secret (or do you?), use walkway pavers to lead people to the secret garden. If you have the capacity, install an old salvaged door or gate to create some mystery, or consider installing an arched trellis or romantic arbor with the intent to cover it in roses, clematis or ivy.

If you want to enclose the area and make it a truly elusive space, you can work around an existing structure such as one side of your house, or beside a retaining wall or fence. Other options include using a trellis or tall plantings and trees such as fast growing evergreen privacy hedges.  You can also create a DIY mesh screen mounted between two posts (if it rusts, that’s ok because it adds to the aged look) and add lots of lacy vines or ivy. Soften the stark look of a fence with vines or trailing ornamental plants and let them climb overtop.

Once inside, determine how you want to define the area. You can mix textures and colours of pavers for flooring and not worry about patchy grass. If the inside area doesn’t get much sunlight, all plantings should enjoy living in shade or partial shade. Since you want the area to maintain a bit of charm and mystery, you should use greenery that doesn’t require too much upkeep. When you buy, ask the nursery about what pruning, watering and maintenance is required for the plants you choose.

Unless you have ample space and plan on using the area for entertaining, furniture and seating should be minimal and what you choose will depend upon how you intend to use the space. Will it be for quiet meditation or for the kids to have tea parties in? Gardens are the perfect place to decorate using upcycled items from garage sales or trading websites.

In addition to privacy, every secret garden should have scent, sound, esthetics and comfort. Make sure any blooms have scents that will draw you in. Install a fountain or pond with fish for a calming sound. The wind rustling between the vegetation can also have a pleasing effect. Vary texture and colour for a visually pleasing environment.

Garden tours are great sources of inspiration – a way to see how others have created their own lay of the land. This spring and summer you can visit local gardens in Hamilton, Burlington and Oakville. In your own backyard, if the only company you want in your secret garden is songbirds, butterflies or bumblebees, we’re sure that one or two just might drop by.

Local Links:
Burlington Horticultural Society
Oakville Horticultural Society

Royal Botanical Gardens, Burlington

By Becky Dumais

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