Good Ideas for creating a Secret Garden?

tweedbunnyMay 19, 2007

I want to make a secret SECRET garden. Not just a name. One that is really hard to find/get into/see. Probably just a small one, about 15x50 or 20x20. I tried to google it but didn't come up with very many ideas.


Should I use tall shrubs to surround it?

What shrubs will grow 7-10 feet high but can be sheared to stay thin, 2 feet or less?

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There is a thread on this topic right now on the cottage garden forum.
You may want to google outdoor garden rooms instead.

Here is a link that might be useful: Garden rooms thread

    Bookmark   May 19, 2007 at 8:16AM
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saypoint(6b CT)

Tall shrubs, or a fence, or small trees with shorter understory shrubs, or trellis panels. Two feet is pretty narrow. There is a current thread, linked below, with a good example of a layered shrub planting for screening, if you have the space, this would be a nice alternative.

You'll have to check for suitability in your zone, but if you want a sheared hedge, check out Canadian Hemlock, Yew, Beech, Privet, Arborvitae. I've never gardened in your zone, so I'm sure there are others that I'm not as familiar with.

Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   May 19, 2007 at 10:11AM
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Best bet is some hardscaping (fence, lattice, pergola) and cover it with vines -grape, rose, clematis, etc! On the outside if it gets lots of sun, put teh roses there. If the inside of your secret room is shadier, plant part-shade shrubs and climbing vines that like the shade. It creates a lush wall.
The swinging wooden door always adds that romantic feel to a garden 'room.' Tuck it under/behind trees to add that feeling of discovering it only when you're practically on top of it. ;p (I used to have the best one underneath a huge weeping willow, the branches and leaves themselves were the screen.)
So what do you want inside your secret room? An escape (hammock, table and chairs), a focal point (statue, circular garden, etc) or a folly?

    Bookmark   May 19, 2007 at 1:01PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

If you want to grow plants in it, it will need some light.


    Bookmark   May 19, 2007 at 1:37PM
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annieinaustin(z8 Austin)

I've been working on a Secret Garden for awhile, myself, tweedbunny, in a "dogleg" area on the far side of the house, with the only entrance near the back corner of the house. There were a couple of evergreen abelias along the outside border when we bought the house in 2004, which were pruned to keep them neat. I let them grow taller and selectively pruned the shrubs to make some branches extend taller than the board fence, and some branches extend horizontally to veil the entrance.

Different young shrubs planted on the opposite side of the entrance, near to the house corner should eventually extend branches and alternate with the abelias, making a sort of baffle effect.

So my Secret Garden is not totally hidden yet, but may become so in time. Good luck with yours!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    Bookmark   May 20, 2007 at 1:44PM
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You know what I would do in such a limited space I would have a hut with power for music and a comfortable chair real walls and a view onto the rest of the garden.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2007 at 5:47PM
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Thanks for the suggestions on the shrubs that might work! Im checking into them. I really like the vines-growing-up-a-trellis idea. That would keep it narrow. I could use plain chainlink fence to create walls, and then grow honeysuckle (heavenly smell) to create a mass wall. My mom has a whole yard surrounded by chainlink and overgrown with honeysuckle. You can't see one inch of the chain link. Beautiful! I wonder how long it would take the honeysuckle to cover the whole fence though...

I want to use it as a place to nap and read. I'd like a hammock and a small tree inside, maybe some tall flowers at the edges.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2007 at 9:54AM
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Brent_In_NoVA(z7/6 VA)

In one of the James A. van Sweden books he talks about a design element that he likes to incorporate into plans. It is an enclosed garden accessible only from the master bedroom (with a locked gate that can be used to bring in materials without having to go through the house). It is a place to sip coffee in the morning or savor a drink before bed. I guess it helps to have a first floor bedroom, though you could do something similar off a den.

- Brent

    Bookmark   May 21, 2007 at 4:51PM
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Thats a cool idea too! I think that would be SO fun to do with a tub outside of the master bedroom! You'd just have to make sure the walls were really high and there were no tall trees nearby for anyone to hang out in :D

    Bookmark   May 21, 2007 at 8:09PM
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mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

I got a Smith & Hawken catalog over the weekend that had trellis sections that could be used to create a "room." Add some fast growing vines (here in 7b I'd use clematis armandii) and in a season or two...instant hide-out! S&H's were expensive...but there's no reason you couldn't come up with your own version.


    Bookmark   May 22, 2007 at 8:07AM
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Brent - I've sometimes been tempted to design a garden like that off of a master bedroom, tho haven't yet. Otoh, the dentist office I went to as a kid (which was designed by my uncle, btw) had enclosed gardens off of each operatory, so instead of looking at a parking lot, you looked at a nice garden backed up by a brick wall, during your dental exam!

    Bookmark   May 22, 2007 at 2:45PM
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careytearose(z9 NoCal)

We just got evergreen Euonymus "Manhattan" trained on trellises that are currently 4 feet wide by 5 feet high. We have placed them four feet apart, these grow to be 8 x 8. I particularily liked these when I saw them at the nursery as they are not very deep at all, like less than 6 inches thick. These are for outdoor green walls to cover the ugly "good neighbor" back and side fences we have. I didn't want boxwood or hollies as they would take too long to get large, full and lush and they would grow much thicker.

We have turned one side yard (long and narrow) into a Secret Garden for our children, its coming along quite nicely! At the front end flanking the future keyed gate are brick columns we had built, with stone ball finials to put on top. We got the finals in on Friday, the concrete construction people that built the hardscape for the front and back for us will be concreting them to the columns. Inside the gate and columns the Secret Garden steps down nine inches lower than the rest of the back yard, with cantilevered brick steps.Unless you go to the far end of the side of the house, you wouldn't even expect or know there is a special garden tucked away there. Eventually there will even be a small waterfall area with a little river and a small pond. Its our only shade area in the entire front and back, so its been fun choosing gardenias, camelias, violet odorata and other fragrant part shade plants for this area. We have a small metal arch to demarcate one section of the garden with thornless roses, and a small metal bench in front of the arch and a little metal bistro set at the other end. We have two nice urns set on the brick steps at the far end filled with trailing fuschias. We have some slate pieces left fdrom our patio we had built to make stepping stones in the garden, and four Rose stepping stones from S&H for another part. By the way, a pitch for S&H, we have their Eden Park moogate and square arch and we love them! Expensive but well worth it. Have three of their Monet Arches on back order to add across an area of climbing roses on the other side yard.

DH and I both love the idea of an outdoor clawfoot tub. Maybe after the children are out of the house, we'll add french doors out our master bedroom side wall to enter the Secret Garden and put one in.

To see pics of our Secret Garden in progress and other recent Landscaping Projects and some of our 108 Roses, ck out my Picture Trail:


Here is a link that might be useful: look at Landscaping Projects, Favourite ROSES We Grow albums

    Bookmark   May 24, 2007 at 7:48PM
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Hi , I have read your postings and joined up . I live in Shropshire, on the north Wales border in England. I am in the throes of trying to a design a secret garden which is part of a long rectangular shape 40 foot x 140 foot. I live in a converted barn.We over look fields which are beautiful , but I have recently bought a dovecot/ arbor combined and want to creat a little private space for contemplation. The land that we have was part of a field , so the grass is not too great . I have planted a willow tree in the middle, and mow the grass short around the tree with a wavy path leading from an arch which is the entrance at the top we have sheep hurdles as a rustic fence . Down the right hand side I have a selection of fruit trees.
My problem is how to create this space and still keep the rural feel of the landscape? I'm thinking roses, hedges, or maybe just fast growing borders. Any help would be great . I have a Japanese and spiritual garden at the top of the garden , near the house, but this place needs to have a different feel to it . I have painted the arbor willow green and will decorate it with lilac and pale pink. Any ideas?

    Bookmark   June 22, 2008 at 7:48AM
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My husband and I are moving into our new log home in two weeks and I have started a Secret Garden there. I placed some favorite items in a small area "down the mountain" a little ways in the summer while the house was being built. With the leaves on the trees no one could see my secret garden; however, now with no leaves it is completely visible. Any suggestions for shielding the garden from viewers in winter? Thanks!

Linda Miller
Nebo - in the mountains of North Carolina

Here is a link that might be useful: Linda Miller

    Bookmark   January 18, 2009 at 11:02AM
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