Create your own small,
enchanted space with plants, pavers, seating, and a water feature.
Ever dream of a secret place where only you
can go - filled with flowers and fragrance, and sheltered from the rest of
the world by hedges or trellises? Or, a place where a softly
dripping fountain soothes away the jangle outside, and time goes by so
slowly that tomorrow seems like a distant dream?
Ancient royals knew the value
of privacy and a change of scenery. They built secret gardens within
their palace walls. These were off-limits to everyone but the royal
family - and the gardeners of course - these secluded retreats provided
escapes from the rigors of court life.
You may not wear a crown of
gold and jade or need daily escapes to a locked-up garden, but don't leave
the dream of a secret garden locked away in your imagination. Just
find a spot away from your garden's center of activity - a forgotten
corner under trees or alongside a fence, for example - and make it your
A small backyard secret
garden can be created in a weekend, often with inexpensive materials or
items you may already have. You can lay pavers and a path first,
then plant later. It can be a sunny spot or a shade garden - both
soothe the soul.
Some Things to Consider
your secret garden where it faces a great view or captures the magic of
sunrise or sunset. If the northwest corner of the garden gets the
first rays of morning sun in summer, this may be where you want to read
the paper in your bathrobe and sip a mug of coffee long before the rest of
the family stirs. Or you may look forward to disappearing after
dinner to the top of a knoll looking west to the sunset, while enjoying a
glass of wine and writing in a journal or curling up with a good book.
Smaller is better. The space
should be private but allow you room to breathe. A circular patio of
brick, stone, or concrete with a 6-foot diameter is more than enough for
you and - on occasion another person. It should feel intimate.
Elements of a Secret
Art. A favorite
sculpture, piece of driftwood, gazing ball, or treasured stone can
contribute to the feeling of personal ownership and give the garden a
Flower color. A
pot filled with blooming plants, a flowery vine (such as a lacy potato
vine, Solanum jasminoides, scrambling along the fence), or a sweep of
cottage pinks at your feet add seasonal cheer.
the ground or in a container, include at least one plant for scent. The
perfume can be subtle--a lemon-scented geranium that needs a pinch to
release its aroma--or sweetly pungent, as from jasmine or rose. We used
stock and dianthus (plant both in fall), as well as purple heliotrope,
with flowers that smell like baby powder (heliotrope is frost-tender;
plant in spring). See the Fragrant
Plants article for more choices.
you need is one chair (two at most) and a little table or wide, low shelf
on which to rest a glass of lemonade or a book. A bench can meet both
needs - imagine it nested in a flowered arbor. If this is a snooze
garden, use a lounge chair or hammock.
garden wall, fence, hedge, high shrub, lattice trellises and dividers, or
a combination of these, lend a sense of enclosure.
Sound and water.
A softly spilling fountain like the table-top ones now available at
reasonable prices, does a lot to mask the cacophony of the world
outside. Kits for small ponds, equipped with pumps and fountain
attachments are also reasonable, or one can be created in a suitable large
dish or container. Two or three stalks of bamboo or tall grasses
make a soothing rustle when a breeze blows (plant the clumping kind or
grow small varieties in a big pot).
for Part Sun
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