Creating a Secret Garden from scratch

I have fallen in love with gardening over the last few years. Cottage gardens, with pathways lined with flowers. Pathways that lead you around corners, to discover different “garden rooms” along the way. “Garden rooms” with a place to sit, relax, enjoy a glass of iced tea, and watch the flowers sway in the breeze. Of course to have grandkids and kitties meander through the gardens is the best. Each year, my husband and I have added a bit more to the gardens. This year was the year we tackled my “secret garden” dreams. I want to share with you how we did it.

We had an area beside our current garden, approx. 100 feet by 30 feet, that was just patchy grass. I am not a garden designer by any means!, but this seemed to be the perfect spot to create what I had in my head for a few years haha. We wanted a green hedge (a tall one) to surround the entire garden, so the first thing we did was research different plants. I found inspiration pictures of hedges and gates on Pinterest, and in March we went to a garden centre nearby that specializes in shrubs. I showed the owner my pictures and explained what I had in mind. He was so helpful, and we decided on purchasing privets to create the perfect hedge…oh and of course it had to be fast growing! I am not very patient! Keep in mind when planting any kind of shrub, or perennial, the maturity size. That’s an important factor when determining how many to purchase.

Measuring the area April 2023
April 2023
April 2023 (spacing the shrubs)

We measured the length and the width of the area, and factoring in the spread of each shrub, purchased 52, our van was full! Our soil is very sandy and therefore easy to dig with a shovel. The plan was to use a shovel, and dig individual holes for each shrub. Well plans changed.

  We discovered right away that cement was buried exactly where we wanted the hedge.  Time to switch gears and get the tractor with the bucket on it.  What was supposed to be a couple hour job turned into quite a few evenings of removing huge cement chunks.  

the huge pile of cement that was dug out of the area

Eventually, a long trench was dug and the shrubs were set in place.  Once the shrubs were planted, I really became excited.  It was a huge step towards my vision!

the trench ready for the shrubs finally! Coconut loved it haha

I wanted the area beside the potting shed to be a little sitting area, in the middle of the garden. So we created paths on either side of it. To create the paths, we laid down landscape fabric. We added pea gravel on top.

Compost was dumped in piles between the pathways for all the plantings. No edging was used, as I like a very informal cottage garden look. The more the paths melt into the garden beds, the better.

As plants grow and spread, they will spread into the paths. None of the paths are straight, its more interesting if you have to meander.

Adding compost to the beds. With help of course (May 9, 2023)

Once the paths were done, and the beds were filled with compost, it was time to start filling the garden with plants!

For plants, I transplanted alot from our existing garden. I know what grows well in our soil, and free plants are always a good idea! I also started some flowers from seed, with the intent of planting them in the new garden. Of course I also love garden centres, and love any excuse to browse the aisles haha.

Mulch was added to the privets and in the garden beds. As I said before, our soil is very sandy, and anything to help retain moisture, the better.

Gerald surprised me with the gate/arbour I had been eyeing for awhile. Eventually the privets will reach 10 feet in height, and this gate will be the only access to the garden from this side!

Then we found the arbours to match, so they were placed in the garden. One has a purple hyacinth bean growing on it, the other a climbing rose.

Both arbours. June 2023 We planted 8 Bloomerang lilacs surrounding this middle seating area. So excited to see these mature, and envelop this space!

I can’t believe how much the garden has filled in over the last couple of months!

At the beginning of August, we added a weeping crabapple tree. I hadn’t planted anything in the garden bed nearest the barn. I was saving that space for an ornamental tree. But once we purchased it and got looking at the space, it made more sense to plant it in the bed after you walk through the second arbour on your way to the barn. It adds one more tall element to hide the flowers beyond. (the flowers that haven’t been planted yet haha)

Weeping crabapple tree added Aug 4, 2023

The bed by the barn is still empty, but that’s ok. I would love some shrubs along the face of the barn (leaning towards limelight hydrangeas) and each year, will add more plants to the garden. Gerald doesn’t know it yet, but I am thinking window boxes on the small barn windows would look darling..haha

August 1, 2023

The month of August has seen alot of growth in the garden! The transplanted perennials, and those that I started from seed are thriving! We have been very fortunate this year, with rain showers throughout the summer, saving me some watering time. The newly planted shrubs have needed extra water, so we have been staying on top of that.

August 1, 2023
August 1, 2023
August 10,2023
August 10, 2023
August 16, 2023

My dream of creating a secret garden has become reality over the summer! I hope you have enjoyed seeing these pics, as much as I have enjoyed sharing them! I will definitely be sharing more in the future, as things grow and mature, and as we add more!

August 23, 2023

In the meantime, you can keep up to date on Instagram and Facebook, where I share alot of the garden (and kitties) in my stories!

Thank you so much for joining me here!

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  1. Diane says:

    You have a lovely piece of paradise.

    1. Tracey says:

      Thank you Diane!

  2. Lynda says:

    Wow! Amazing transformation 💗💗. Love it! Can’t wait to meander with you , the kitties and a cup of tea Xoxo

    1. Tracey says:

      Thanks Lynnie! Sounds perfect!!

  3. Marilyn Moore says:

    WOW! How absolutely beautiful. You have created a wonderful place to relax, and enjoy nature. Especially in such gorgeous surroundings. The kitties certainly add to the tranquility.
    You are an amazing couple. Can’t wait to see the hydrangeas, and new window boxes!!! (ha ha) Love it!! And love you. XOXO

    1. Tracey says:

      Thank you Mom! Love you too! xoxoxoxxo

  4. Robin Foster says:

    Tracey this is such beautiful inspiration! I love what you’ve done and how you show the pics and explain it all. I want to do something like this on a smaller scale. I know you’re going to enjoy this space so much! Thx very much for sharing!

    1. Tracey says:

      Thank you so much Robin!!

  5. Janet Fick says:

    What beautiful gardens you have put together this summer, Tracey. Out of this world!! You could certainly have your own Home and Gardens Magazine. Your awesome cats just add so much to your decorations. Amazing. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Tracey says:

      Awe Janet thank you so so much!!

  6. Sandy says:

    Tracey, Wow! What a difference a few months makes. It looks amazing! It’s going to definitely be a secret garden when all your privets grow to maximum height! I love meandering paths!

    1. Tracey says:

      Thanks Sandy! I am so thrilled with it!

  7. Barbara H. says:

    I have followed you on Instagram for quite a while and love your gardens. I’ve been amazed at how fast the plants in your secret garden have grown. Love the cats – I am down to two now after losing the oldest one to bladder cancer. Coconut’s sleeping positions crack me up. Thanks for sharing this in your blog, too!

    1. Tracey says:

      Thank you! The plants have certainly grown faster than I thought too! I’m so so sorry about your precious kitty. xo

  8. You’ve created a lovely area. Have to laugh about the white cat laying in dirt. Your kitties are adorable!

    1. Tracey says:

      Thank you Debra!

  9. Tracey says:

    Thanks Aunt Barb! You definitely need a cat!

  10. Beautiful! What is the vine you have growing over the arbor?

    1. Tracey says:

      Hi Karen! Sorry it took me so long to reply…its an annual purple hyacinth bean!

  11. Your secret garden is so beautiful! I love the gates and arbors. I imagine it will be so nice when your bushes get tall. You are gifted to be able to create such a gorgeous space from scratch. Thank you for sharing the process with us! I’ve been making over a little section of my vegetable garden with raised beds built by my husband. We are adding pea gravel in the next week or so, and I’m so excited!

    1. Tracey says:

      Thank you Kelsey! I appreciate your kind comments so much! There is nothing like a new garden! So exciting! Enjoy walking and
      crunching on your new pea gravel!

  12. Good morning…just found your website…The Hydrangea Farmhouse! What a perfect name. In the Spring…when God sends the warmth and sunshine, will you identify the plants you have chosen?
    I cannot wait to see how the garden fills in…it is amazing of the growth in just this one season.
    Bless you for sharing.
    Diana Holzer. East Palestine, Ohio

    1. Tracey says:

      Hi Diana! Thank you so much! I can’t wait for Spring! I share a whole lot more on Instagram and Facebook.
      I will try to do a blog post each year on the gardens progress!

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