10 Ways to Create a Secret Garden

No matter where your plot of land is — in the heart of a bustling city or down a quiet lane — there’s an opportunity to make your yard feel like a secret, secluded space. The best secret gardens not only feel private, but they also have a certain magic about them, evoking the sense of being removed from the hustle of daily life and transported to somewhere else entirely. Let’s take a look at 10 ingredients that not only give secret gardens privacy, but a sense of magic as well.
7. A Connection With Nature

Welcome bees, butterflies, birds and other small creatures to your secret garden by offering sources for food and water, and areas for shelter. Choose native plants and others that support pollinators. Allow plants to go to seed — which can become food for birds in fall and winter.

Welcoming these connections with wildlife may give new meaning to your experience with the garden.

One Fantastical Garden

For Susan McLaughlin, her wooded, lakeside house in Newtown, CT plays an influential role in her artistic vision as a magical realist painter. By providing her with an environment that comes alive with the sights and sounds of nature, she’s able to closely study as an explorer would by uncovering, recording, and rearranging the beauty of the natural world and the beauty of human beings.

This connection to nature comes from her horticultural interest manifested in the daily ritual of digging and pruning in her Connecticut garden. A daily ritual of physical immersion with the dirt and the worms of life contrasts with the otherworldly fantastical spaces she creates for her paintings. The paradoxical character of these two places imbues her paintings with an alluring mystery.

Enjoy this visual tour as we bring Susan’s property to life through images that depict the relationship between her paintings and gardens.
The alluring entrance to a beautiful garden setting.
Foxglove Cottage in full view.
A warm welcome.
The perfect spot for morning coffee.
Lady of the House
Taking center stage.
Hydrangeas and clematis in full bloom.
Reflective blooms.
A perfect head of flowers.
Untitled design (25)
Midnight Rose
Photography by: Kimberly Charles

The Dog Days of Summer To-Do List

mid summer garden
Local garden during the height of summer
watering plants
Water wisely

A Water-Wise Focus: A saturating inch per week is optimal for most plants. Allow lawns to go dormant during a period of drought and regularly water only new annuals, perennials, shrubs, and trees. Saturating plants about an inch a week is optimal for most plants. Plan to water early and on windless days to prevent evaporation.

container garded
Late summer container garden

Give Container Plants a BIG Drink. Plants confined to containers need extra attention on hot days to prevent stress and wilting. Check them first thing in the morning and again in the afternoon for soil moisture and signs of wilt. Certain containers in full sun may need daily or even twice daily watering during heat waves. Always water deeply enough that water runs out the drainage holes.


Fertilize annuals and tender perennials.  Every two weeks to once per month during the growing season, consider diluting a solution of organic fertilizer such as fish or seaweed emulsion for a simple, sustainable way to feed your plants.

echinacea plants
Deadheading echinacea facilitates flower bloom

Deadhead for extended blooms. Some plants, particularly annuals such as marigolds zinnias, and cosmos, may be tricked into extended bloom if they’re prevented from setting seed. For others, the seed heads are half the fun of the plant and may be allowed to remain for fall and winter interest, bird food, and self-sowing. Start collecting ripe seeds from your favorite early blooming annuals, biennials, and perennials. Keep them dry in paper bags, coin envelopes, or jars for planting the following spring.



Poolscaping 101

antique property with pool and landscaping
Bucolic Antique

Before you start planting, consider the following:

Color: Ensure you have continuous color from spring through late fall. Pines, ferns, and hostas provide a relaxing, cool feel, while black-eyed susans, echinacea, and lilies add pops of color. Mulch adds a finishing touch and the earth tone accentuates the plants from the hardscape area of your pool.

Texture: Different plants provide different textures. Ferns and grasses add movement, allure, and an ethereal feel along with a Zen atmosphere of calm and coolness.

Visual appeal: Potted palms, papyrus, and banana trees add an authentic tropical island feel. They’re also hardy enough to handle splashes of pool water with chlorine, saline pool water, and pool cleaning chemicals. Bonus! You can bring these plants inside to overwinter for year-round enjoyment.

Longevity: You don’t want to plant new trees, shrubs, and flowers every year (except for a few annuals). Be sure to invest in plants that are well-suited to our fluctuating climate.

Privacy: Arborvitae and other shrubs provide natural screens to keep your area private while you and your family enjoy your pool.

Poolside landscaping softens hardscapes
Bucolic Antique

PROFESSIONAL TIP: It’s best to consider starting with native plants (our specialty!) because they handle the New England climate well and can tolerate dry periods, as well as the changing seasons.

Hydrangeas soften pool harscape
Hydrangea lineup
Poolscaping at its best with color, texture and outdoor lighting
Poolside at dusk