In The Secret Garden, author Frances Hodgson Burnett surmises, “If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.” Growing up as I have among the plants and flowers that so many of you have taken home of the years, eventually rearing my own children in nature’s nursery, I would have to say that I agree. Everywhere I look, I imagine something better with the right landscaping and an aesthetic understanding of the role plants play in beautifying our lives. My family and I have literally grown like garden components. So it doesn’t surprise me to be asked, “How might I grow my own secret garden?” The question immediately puts me in mind of rows of stunning shrub roses in a variety of colors and heights, each grown to conceal something even more stunning behind it.
Even though I was not surprised, I did step back in deep consideration. One cannot respond to such a delicious question with a flippant answer. One must instead determine before any response might be given what the asker means, needs, and wants.
Elements of a Secret Garden Create Spaces of Respite
Among the things I imagine when I think of my little girl days reading The Secret Garden are:
- Sense of Hope and Peace
Achieving any or all of these elements requires understanding of what thrives within your zone, climate, and soil. Sun and water play roles, too, of course. But with the right understanding of your particular space, anyone might create the dramatic sense of beauty and possibility that Burnett illustrated so beautifully via words.
In her novel, one first focusing on sorrow and death and then on the potential for joy where life is cultivated, specifically in a garden, Burnett uses shrub roses as a symbol for the hope a garden represents. Orphaned, unlikable Mary discovers the secret garden behind the dense wall of roses that appear to be dead but truly only need loving care. A robin, which she describes as “prettier than anything else in the world” helps her to discover the key to a little door hidden in the dense foliage of the roses, and this reveals far greater mystery than one might expect the vines to hide.p>Within the wall of shrub roses, Mary discovers the first spikes of bulb grown flowers--crocuses, daffodils, perhaps tulips, and determines that the garden is quite alive if neglected. Now, the lonely ten-year-old imagines a project to entertain herself, but what the garden promises and delivers is far more profound than entertainment.
Everyone deserves the pleasure of both a private place to meditate and ruminate AND the opportunity to reveal within themselves creative potential for growing something wonderful. Growing your own secret garden stands to connect you better with the planet, nature, and your Self.
Your Secret Garden Cultivates Harmony
Looking back to the secret garden Mary’s story revealed behind that shrub rose wall, I know exactly how to answer the question. To get started, it is important to put yourself in the right frame of mind. First, allow yourself to imagine great garden possibility. Next ask yourself what you would grow in a space all your own. Finally, envision peace, tranquility, and magic. When you feel yourself ready to cultivate kindness and compassion, harmony such as a garden represents, follow these steps to cultivate mystery and privacy in your garden:
- Choose an area that provides ample space for garden construction
- Mark the lines of your future garden wall
- Leave a space for your own garden gate or door
- Select fast-growing, disease resistant roses (I recommend Oso Easy Shrub Roses)
- Plant these 3 to 4’ apart
- Fertilize and Water accordingly
Once you have planted your roses, you can move forward with other garden plans. Within the area guarded by the roses, imagine beds of flowers that bring color, fragrance, textures, and varied bloom times to the garden. Intermingle rhizomes, bulbs, and webby roots for a variety of grow styles and to extend your bloom season. With the right planning, your secret garden will bloom from early spring to frost. In some areas, year round blooms may be possible.
And remember, a little robin guided Mary, so be sure to plant berries and other food and habitat providers. Food-bearing plants offer beautiful blooms, dense foliage, and tasty fruits for both wildlife and humans.