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The Secret Garden
by Judith Rogers
by Judith Rogers

I am a freelance garden writer with a weekly column ‘The Gardener’s Corner’ in the Innisfil Scope and quarterly articles in the regional magazine Footprints.

I began a blog to journal my home and garden life at Lavender Cottage. The art of afternoon tea has been a pleasure of mine for years and ‘Tea with Friends’ has become a weekly post with ladies I’ve met through blogging.

March 14, 2010

There’s something about having a secret place to be by yourself in idle relaxation away from the everyday bustle of life. I’m not talking closets here but you never know with the enormity of them in some homes but a nice, quiet place outside and preferably part of a garden.

People who’ve grown up with the familiarity of gardens know there was always a soothing little area somewhere to climb into or under tall plants to lay on your back for cloud gazing, play with treasured toys or hide if you were in trouble. But mostly these secret places had a positive atmosphere and took on special meaning when shared with a friend.

Mary Jo Putney’s quote “What one loves in childhood stays in the heart forever” perhaps helps to explain why many women, and I’m sure some male gardeners too, when they find a little niche in the garden that’s hidden from view will construct a secret garden.
The secret garden has many faces depending on the creator and one I recall seeing on a garden tour was at the side of a residential property behind some evergreens. If you didn’t know it was there, you might miss this one but once you ducked inside it was a magical forest of miniature fairies, trolls and animals. River rocks and mirrors gave the illusion of a meandering river and lake and the inside of a few evergreens that had been limbed up offered the positioning for swings and climbing little folk.

Another secret garden I’ve visited runs the width of a property at the back behind trees where there are so many things to see from all the shade plants and statuary to the benches placed strategically to sit upon and soak up some of the solitude found there. It’s easy to forget that houses are on both sides and backing on to this property.

I have a clever friend that makes use of mirrors in quite a few places throughout her small grassless backyard garden. The mirrors help open up the yard to make it look bigger and add some reflective light since it is a shady place from the mature trees. Her secret garden is entered under an arbour with a sign pointing it out and when inside there appears to be another area further back through the fence. This is an illusion made from a large mirror on the fence that extends to the ground with growing vines and flowers around the edges that disguise the fact that the mirror is there at all. It took some studying to comprehend what you were actually looking at and of course the owner has great satisfaction in knowing she can deceive her guests.

Secret gardens can be made in the smallest corner to the largest hidden area that a gardener has. Some have seating to be functional while others are only a tiny site established by the imagination of a child within emerging to create a fantasy.

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