How To Create A Secret Garden In Your Own Backyard

A view through an arched brick doorway leads to a beautiful flowering garden
(Image credit: mrloz)

A secret garden is more than just a courtyard or separate area of the garden. It should be a magical space and a retreat. Its location shouldn’t be immediately obvious. It should be special. Use these tips and ideas for how to create a secret garden in your backyard for a relaxing sanctuary and to add a little bit of magic to your outdoor space.

Why Build a Secret Garden?

The Secret Garden is a classic of garden literature. It showcases these hidden spaces in gardens that inspired the young heroine of the book to become a better person. The growth of the garden symbolizes her personal growth and that of her family. It’s a positive, uplifting symbol that highlights how special gardens are in general.

When you think of a secret garden, you probably picture an urban space, a small hidden sanctuary surrounded by busy streets, pollution, and noise. If you need a retreat from an urban landscape, creating a secret garden is a great solution.

But you don’t have to be in the city to create and enjoy this kind of space. Make a secret room in your garden to enjoy no matter where you live. It can serve as a relaxing retreat, a place to meditate or just get some peace and quiet.

How to Create a Secret Garden – Tips

You can design a secret garden to be whatever you want it to be. There are no rules and only your imagination to limit you. But, if you’re a little unsure of where to begin, here are some tips to make it more successful:

  • Pick the right spot. The location is the foundation of your secret garden, so take some time and choose it wisely. A lesser-used area of the garden is ideal. It should be a little out of the way, so it takes some effort to discover. In other words, it shouldn’t be obvious.
  • Create walls. A secret garden wouldn’t be so secret without enclosing structures of some type. These can be walls, which provide a courtyard feel. But the enclosure can also be more natural. Use shrubs, trees, fences, or a combination of elements to make the space feel enclosed even if it isn’t fully. You can even use an arbor or pergola with vining plants to create walls. The walls do not have to be impermeable. They only need to provide a sense of enclosed space.
  • Consider the entry. A secret garden should be a balance between hidden and inviting. A visitor should have to work a little but also be able to find the entrance. A curving walkway, for instance, is like an invitation to see what lies beyond. An arbor that opens into a courtyard is also a welcoming entrance. You might even want to use a gate to create even more division from the rest of the garden.
  • Choose your plants. If this is a personal retreat, it’s important to use the right plants. Select species that help create the enclosed space but also that you enjoy and get peace from. Consider things like flowering times, density of the foliage, the ability to trim and shape, and also the aroma the plants will create in your secret room.
  • Create a place to sit. A secret garden is not a place to simply walk through. It’s a spot in the garden to linger, so you need somewhere to sit and enjoy it. This could be a bench or just a comfortable patch of grass. A stump from an old tree can also be seating or even the focal point around which you build the space.

These secret garden design ideas serve as a launching point. Let them spark your creativity and inspire you to make a garden retreat for yourself and for others to discover and enjoy. Remember to be patient. A garden takes years to develop. With time, you’ll have thick shrubs and plants that hide your personal garden sanctuary.

Mary Ellen Ellis

Mary Ellen Ellis has been gardening for over 20 years. With degrees in Chemistry and Biology, Mary Ellen's specialties are flowers, native plants, and herbs.