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 your own perennial project, go on a local garden tour this spring or summer.

Just like in the novel, a secret garden should be a somewhat hidden space – even hidden 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 secretive 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 – it will contribute 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, you need to ask 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 does not get much sunlight, all plantings should enjoy living in shade or partial shade. To add charm and mystery, 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 room and plan on using the area for entertaining, furniture and seating should be minimal and selection will depend on 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. Choose blooms for shape, texture, colour and for scent. Install a fountain or pond with fish for a calming effect. The breeze rustling between the vegetation will be calming as well. Remember that a variety in your choice of elements will attract a variety of wildlife.

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 3.17.40 PMLocal organizations dedicated to horticulture have much to share and their members can be a wellspring of information and know-how for projects like secret gardens. The Newmarket Garden Club celebrates its 90th year this May, and The Aurora Garden & Horticultural Society turns 100 in 2018 – that’s a lot of experience! Their Garden Tours are great sources of inspiration – a way to see how others have created their own lay of the land. This July you can visit local gardens in both Newmarket and Aurora – check our local links for details. By the time your project is complete, if the only company you want in your secret garden is songbirds, butterflies or bumblebees, one or two just might drop by.

Local Links:
Aurora Garden & Horticultural Society

Newmarket Garden Club


Upcoming Events:
90th Anniversary Celebration
Newmarket Community Centre

Plant Sale
Newmarket Community Centre

Aurora Garden Tour

Newmarket Garden Tour

Annual Aurora Flower Showcase

by  Becky Dumais & Charlotte Ottaway

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