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The Mystery and Magic of a Secret Garden

by Mel Sexson, Collin County Master Gardener

Mystery and magic…. those are the words that come to mind when thinking about a secret garden.

For centuries, gardens have been divided into different parts for different uses, mainly for practical purposes. In modern times, the idea of creating a secret area with an element of surprise – a secluded space to enjoy the beauty of nature and outdoors – has grown in popularity.

The options for what type of secret garden to create are as endless as one’s imagination!  Important considerations are space, light exposure, watering capabilities, and design. A secret garden can be established in a space with any conditions, primarily by proper plant selection for the intended location. Furthermore, a portion of a larger, already existing garden can be used, creating a garden within a garden.

Evergreen hedges are a popular choice for establishing enclosed areas or portions of them, along with trelliswork screening, stone or brick. An enclosure could be made simply by creating one curved line that one must walk beyond to view the garden. A key factor is to establish an entry into the secret space that obscures what lies beyond.

Once a space has been established, think about the atmosphere you want it to have, uniquely to your preferences. Do you want to attract butterflies and hummingbirds? Might you enjoy the sound of a water feature?  Would you like a space for a table and chairs, benches, a bird bath, bird feeders, bird houses, or statuary?  Consider what your choices would be as you design the space, assuring the ability to incorporate them into the garden.

Focal points are important. They provide wandering eyes places to delight in. 

A path within the garden, stepping stones, and favorite plants with distinctive shapes, sizes, and textures can all create additional focal points within.

Creating a secret space can be as simple or as complex a project as you wish it to be. It can be large, small, and any shape you desire.  It can be formal, informal, modern, woodsy, cottage style.  It can be a shade garden, full sun, or a bit of both.

  • Remember to select the right plant for the right place!
  • Put your personality into it
  • Create visual surprises and charming hidden corners or areas

Over time, as plants grow and mature, your secret garden will become a delightful secluded area, and as with most gardens, can continually evolve with your changing tastes. 

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