How to Design a Secret Garden

I am often asked to produce a garden which has secret places or some areas which cannot be seen all in one glance, so here is a design which would provide this effect. There are a number of problems which arise with this type of garden. Mowing the grass is anything but straightforward, although the area is not particularly large. The garden, when viewed from certain angles, may look smaller than it really is, although an impression of size comes about in a different way. When a garden is divided up like this, it takes much longer to walk around than it would in an open layout, so this makes the garden ‘feel’ larger.

I have, in this example, taken the precaution to preserve and even draw attention to its longest axis, from the patio doors to the furthest corner. The patio has been designed to fit in with the rather complex layout of the garden — its ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ connect up with the shape of the lawn to produce a unified effect. Some of the paving angles are awkward so, as with several other patio designs, careful attention will be needed in choosing the most appropriate materials. Once again, I would favour a brick edge. If the patio was raised slightly above the lawn, a step flush with the grass would need to go all the way along, to act as a good mowing strip.

Secret Garden

There are two main routes to the top right-hand corner of the garden. On the right is a wide grass path. The borders alongside this could contain a good prop­ortion of herbaceous flowers, although on the left, some shrubs would be needed to divide this walk from the main lawn. If necessary, a trellis panel with climbing plants could be used instead of shrubs.

The fence would need screening fairly convincingly so that the walk was completely secluded with planting. The octagonal gazebo in the right-hand corner would be raised a little above the garden level with one or two steps up. The bottom half would have a low brick or stone wall and the remainder would consist of a wood or steel frame over which climbers could grow. Seating would either be built in or provided by garden furniture. This gazebo has been positioned to catch the late afternoon and early evening sun so that it would be an ideal place to sit after a hard day’s work.

The two main lawns are connected by an area of paving with an overhead pergola. In a very large garden, this could be supported on brick or stone pillars but in a small area, wooden uprights would be a better choice in terms of scale. A good climber for the scale of pergola shown here would be wisteria, perhaps combined with Clematis montana rubens. The top left-hand corner of the garden is devoted to some fruit and vegetables. There is a compost area and there would be room for a greenhouse.

I have tried to make the border, which separates the main lawn from the veget­able area, wide enough to take a good screen of shrubs so that the two are well separated except for the narrow path, flanked by two conifers. The patio would not receive a lot of sun so I have positioned a garden seat on the opposite (sunny) side of the main lawn. There is a risk, however, that the addition of this seat could make that part of the garden look rather cluttered. Planting in general would be very mixed but, above all, it should aim to separate the various areas from one another. This implies the use of shrubs, especially evergreens for winter effectiveness and perhaps fragrant ones around the back of the gazebo.

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About the Author: Greenery always attracts Arthur Kunkle. He has a big garden where he plants many fruits and vegetables. His passion for gardening motivates him to write and share different tips on gardening.

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