Secret Garden
Photos by Debbie McFarland and Bonnie Helander

Create your own backyard sanctuary with surprise treasures around every turn.

Our gardening contributor, Bonnie Helander, shares ideas from her secret garden to help you create your own peaceful oasis.

Create the hidden, secret garden look by enclosing the space with hedges or walls to lead people down a pathway, up steps, or through an arbor or gate.

Plant a succession of blooming plants for each season. Include plants with interesting foliage or fragrance for the visitor to “stop and smell the roses.” Similar to a hydrangea, these snowball viburnums make a beautiful backdrop for Bonnie’s rabbit statue.

Look for garden art whenever you are at a thrift shop, antique store, farmer’s market, or festival. Even an inexpensive terracotta pot can be aged to look like a prized antique by painting it with yogurt and letting it sit in the shade to “age.”

Think outside the pot. Anything that holds water can be a container and serves as an interesting focal point in your garden. A bird bath can hold plants that like wet roots. Use vintage pieces with special meaning to use as containers, like your grandmother’s watering can or teapot.

Place containers where you need a spot of color or a focal point. In Bonnie’s yard, a “head” container adds personality and a bit of whimsy. “I have many vintage pieces that were from my husband Dan’s family farm in Illinois as well as from my grandparent’s farm in Moreland, GA.” These add a treasured personal touch.

Your secret garden needs shady spots for relaxing after a day of work at the office or in the garden. “Dan and I love to garden together. It is so peaceful and relaxing in our little slice of nature,” Bonnie says. If you don’t have large trees, create shade with a gazebo, umbrella or awning. Throw pillows will add color and coziness to your space.

Fill containers with masses of annuals to last all summer long. Perennials that bloom at different times throughout the year can add additional pops of color and interest.

A winding pathway draws people into the garden to see what is beyond, creating mystery and a desire to see more. Add places to sit and linger along the way and design a focal point in the distance for additional intrigue.

A secret garden should be a place of peace and quiet and is enhanced by the mystical sound of water. If you don’t want to invest in a pond, you can still enjoy cascading water by adding a simple fountain.