Create your own Secret Garden

As a child my favourite spot in my parent’s modest garden was the dark secluded corner where lush leafed plants encased an area my siblings and I nicknamed ‘Favourite Corner’. The unassuming entrance was an old trellis almost entirely consumed by ivy which my mother wouldn’t dare cut back for fear of accidently snipping off a head of the stunning purple clematis that danced its way through the evergreen leaves. A rickety bench could be glimpsed through the entrance enticing and intriguing our young minds to explore further.

As an adult these spaces have lost little of their lustre. Whereas in my childhood hours might have been spent looking under the stepping stones for insects to terrorise, now my time in these spaces is spent sitting, reading and contemplating away from sight and sound of the outside world.

Introspective and inward looking in their very nature, these spaces rely on the careful detailing and the knowledgeable selection of suitable plants and materials to ensure their success. The use of water in such areas can be incredibly effective even if this be derived from a simple cast iron bowl filled to the brim with water. This will mirror any available light and add to the reflective nature of the space.

In these secluded spaces the onus is less on intense flower colour and far more focused on foliage. This is where the size, shape, colour and texture of leaves come into their own. Foliage such as the large, lush leaves of the Hosta ‘Big Daddy’ contrasting beautifully with the lacy fronds of our native Polystichum setiferum ‘Herrenhausen’ in winter the striking bold, rich red of the Berginia ‘Overture’ against the more delicate grass like leaves of the faithful Liriope muscari will capture the imagination as much as the most beautiful rose. Here plants have to work hard and should be chosen for their long periods of interest or multiple exciting characteristics. The Astelia ‘Silver Shadow’ with its sword like leaves provides both architectural interest and will happily lighten up a partially shaded spot far better than a less subtle painted fence could.

In these spaces, inspiration need not come from the architecture of the house but from a more natural source such as the moss growing within the cracks of a path. It is for these reasons that when a client comes to me asking for help with this troublesome aspect of their garden, my mind starts to race with the possibilities that can be created for this unsuspecting client. To quote the wonderful author Frances Hodgsen Burnett ‘ At first people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done, then they begin to hope it can be done – Then it can be done and all the world wonders why it was not done centuries ago’ – The Secret Garden

So don’t dread and dismiss the damp, dark corner of your garden as these can make the most magical, enticing spaces and if you are nervous of where to start then do contact our design team at Graduate Landscapes. We would be only too happy to help!


Chris James

Garden Designer at Graduate Landscapes