How to Design a Secret Garden

Psst… want to surprise visitors when they come to your home? Trenton, MI-based gardener Irma Landin-Obregon did. That’s why she created a ‘secret garden’ – so named because guests are in for an unexpected treat when they round her recently completed backyard and extended side gardens.

I call it my secret garden because when you walk down my driveway and turn to where the backyard is, you expect to see a grassy lawn. But instead, you discover a lush garden with beautiful flowers and plants. We enjoy sitting on the back patio, drinking our coffee in the morning and looking at all of the beauty that is there just for us to see.”

We asked Irma for her best tips on how to design a secret garden.

How did you decide upon the design, and what are some of the features of it that you find work especially well?

When I began this huge project, I did a lot of research. I discovered lasagna gardening – where you layer paper, then soil, then mulch over your lawn. While I was waiting for planting season, I sketched out a plan of how I wanted my garden to look. What worked well was deciding on my focal points – like my stone birdbath and my garden angel – and where to place paths, because I needed to be able to get around in the garden for weeding. I also needed lots of ground cover because I had a lot of area to cover. I also wanted lots of tall perennials. I have mostly sunny spots, and a shady area under my tree, so I looked for plants that would do well in the sun or the shade. My sketch was a guide for me as I shopped for plants and also started some from seeds.

What can you share with our readers about how to make this kind of garden work?

I think researching the types of plants that work well in your zone is really important. So is having a variety of sizes, colors and textures. I also try to have plants that bloom at different times so that I always have some color (except in winter, of course).

Here are some things to incorporate into your outdoor space that can help transform it into a secret garden:

• Install a hidden entrance, such as a pergola or gate, which will invite visitors to see what’s beyond.

• Create some privacy with hedges, fences or screens.

• Don’t be afraid to create a natural, slightly wild look with your plantings, such as incorporating different grasses and tall or trailing flowering plants.

• Set up pathways with stepping stones or sliced logs that meanders into different sections of your garden so that guests discover hidden areas.

• Add whimsical sculptures or pieces of art throughout that have special meaning to you.

• Layer outdoor lighting to set different moods.

Share your secret garden ideas with us!

PHOTO INFORMATION:

All photos courtesy of Irma Landin-Obregon

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