The Secret Garden Revealed.

In the spring I mentioned that I had a new project in mind. A secret garden.  It has taken all summer to create it and it is still not finished. First of all I had to mark it out and then dig up the daffodils.

Actually, I decided that life was too short and my energy too scarce to dig them all up. The job was backbreaking enough without mining for daffodils..
Having dug it out, with the help of my friends, Paul and Julie, I then had to decide what to plant round it to make it a secret hideaway. I thought about planting exuberant tropical plants to make it an exotic garden with a secluded centre and I also toyed with the dramatic use of grasses. In the end, in the interest of economy, I decided to use some of my ‘maids in waiting‘. These are plants that have been sitting in pots for a long time. Some of them are impulse buys and others were grown from seeds or cuttings that I begged, borrowed or stole. For those of you who are looking very po-faced at the latter, have you never got home and found the odd seed has just fallen into your pocket? I usually ask permission if there is somebody about.

The next problem was how I was going to look after the large circle of plants that would surround my secret garden. There would be an enormous area of soil to weed if I removed the turf. On the other hand, the Pianist would mutiny if I expected him to weave in and out of the plants with the lawn mower. He was already deeply suspicious of the whole project, suspecting that it might create work for him. He didn’t need to worry, I knew there was no chance of him getting involved with the wheelbarrow.

It’s all right, I like to preserve our anonymity on this blog and never show faces. I don’t show our bottoms either.  Just the bottoms of complete strangers. This is a greetings card which caught my eye. But it is not a scene you are ever likely to see in our garden. The only time the Pianist goes into the orchard, is riding on the mower.

I solved the problem by putting a membrane down and covering it with coir. I made slits to plant in. It has worked brilliantly to keep the plants healthy through this desiccating, dry summer.


I wanted a mixture of foliage plants that would look good all year round and plants with fragrant flowers. I probably planted them too close together, I always do; but I want it to look good soon, not in 10 years time. For evergreens I used the following:

A loquat that I grew from seed found in Greece 3 years ago. It has lovely glossy leaves, it may not survive a really cold winter, but it is worth a try.

Eriobotrya japonica

Eriobotrya japonica

I bought this corokia a couple of years ago and it has been living in a pot for far too long, it is breathing a big sigh of relief to find itself planted out. It is planted here to complement the early -flowering yellow Rosa ‘Helen Knight’.

Corokia x virgata 'Sunsplash'

Corokia x virgata ‘Sunsplash’

Another very pot-bound plant is Pittospermum tobira ‘Variegata’. This is a lovely shrub with really sweet smelling flowers. I had it in a pot by the door to enjoy in winter, but I often forgot to water the poor thing. It still has its ivy  and ajuga skirt. It is looking so much better now it can grow freely.

Pittospermum tobira 'Vareigata'

Pittospermum tobira ‘Vareigata’

The dark leaved shrub on the left is not evergreen. It is Clerodendron trichotomum ‘Purple Blaze’. This poor thing was bought a couple of years ago and has been struggling, neglected and forgotten in the tiny space I crammed it into. It is really happy now. It has very sweetly scented flowers followed by turquoise- blue fruit.

Clerodenndron trichotomum 'Purple Blaze'

Clerodenndron trichotomum ‘Purple Blaze’

For lovely glossy, evergreen foliage and sweet, lemon scented flowers, I planted Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’. It is supposed to be a compact form. I hope it is and I hope it doesn’t mind being trimmed if it gets too big. I bought this last year and wondered where on earth to plant it. It should be fine here as this part of the garden is very sheltered. To the right of it is a lovely double-flowered  Philadelphus ‘Snowbelle’ which I grew from a begged cutting. Also near here, is another begged cutting; a young evergreen Escallonia. I am not keen on them, but this is a white one with lovely glossy leaves called Escallonia iveyi.

Magnolia grandiflora 'little Gem'

Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’

I love the marbled effect of the leaves of Pittospermum tenuifolium ‘Irene Paterson’ and have wanted one for ages. So I bought one.

Pittospermum tenuifolium 'irene Paterson'

Pittospermum tenuifolium
‘Irene Paterson’

Next to it, I have planted another bought plant; the rarely seen Sophora davidii. This is a slow-growing deciduous shrub from China. It has dainty leaves and pea-like flowers.

More free plants were the shrubby honeysuckle; Lonicera tatarica, (I begged a cutting of this because I had never seen it before. If it doesn’t perform well, or gets too big, it will have to go.) Eleagnus  angustifolia ‘Quicksliver’ has silvery leaves and very sweetly scented flowers. It can sucker badly and become a nuisance, but mine has an impeccable pedigree, its parent came from Cedric Morris’s garden, via a friend and it doesn’t sucker at all.

I bought a sunset coloured  rose which I have been wanting for ages. It is Rosa ‘Lady Emma Hamilton’. It has a lovely fruity fragrance and is repeat flowering; in fact it is in bloom again now.

Rosa 'Lady Emma Hamilton'

Rosa ‘Lady Emma Hamilton’

I placed it near the wonderful Koelreuteria paniculata ‘Coral Sun’ which I planted last year.

Koelreuteria paniculata 'Coral Sun'

Koelreuteria paniculata ‘Coral Sun’

To complete the colour scheme in this corner is an Acer ‘Orange Beauty’ and a little  Coprosma ‘Pina Colada’.

Coprosma 'Tequila Sunrise'

Coprosma ‘Tequila Sunrise’

Other plants are the yellow-flowered Magnolia ‘Elizabeth and Itea ilicifolia which is evergreen with shiny leaves and very long tassels of green flowers.

To enhance the intimate room-like feel I was looking for, I have a trellis  all the way round with four arched entrances. I love the way Paul who made it for me, has arranged the trellis to look like rays of  the sun.

This entrance has Magnolia ‘Wada’s Memory’ in the way and I will move it in the autumn.

The little golden Catalpa bignonioides ‘Aurea’ planted in the grass will be coppiced each year so that it grows enormous leaves.
Two opposing arches have the rose ‘Phyllis Bide’ growing up them. This is a delightful rambler which doesn’t grow too tall and has an abundance of the prettiest flowers which are yellow flushed with salmon. They smell lovely and they are repeat flowering. It is in bloom again now.

Rosa 'Phyllis Bide'

Rosa ‘Phyllis Bide’

The other two arches have wisterias. One of them pink and the other white.
Of course I have to have fragrant climbers. There are two jasmines, one of them is ‘Inverleith’ which has dark pink buds and the other is a golden leaved one called Jasminum officinale ‘Fiona Sunrise’. Next to Fiona’s Sunrise, I have the most fragrant honeysuckle I could find. This one passed the sniff test. It is Lonicera periclemenum Scentsation. It bloomed in June and here it is having another go now.

Lonicera periclemenum 'Scentsation'

Lonicera periclemenum ‘Scentsation’

The other fragrant climber is a Trachelospermum which has the most delicious smelling star-shaped flowers.
It is wonderful to have space for some of my favourite clematis. These include the unusual Clematis florida ‘Sieboldii’. The flowers always remind me of passion flowers. It bloomed in June and this is what it looked like.

Clematis florida 'Sieboldii'

Clematis florida ‘Sieboldii’

On the same panel I have C. ‘Miss Bateman’ and Clematis ‘Purpurea Plena Elegans’. These lovely, double, dusky pink flowers started in July and it goes on and on flowering.

Clematis 'Purpurea Plena Elegans'

Clematis ‘Purpurea Plena Elegans’

Clematis rehderiana was a favourite of Vita Sackville West and I can see why. It has primrose yellow bell-shape flowers that start blooming in early summer and go on and on. Mine is very new, but I am hoping that next year that it will look like this.

Clematis rehderiana

Clematis rehderiana

Another new one which I have been waiting anxiously for is Clematis koreana ‘Amber’. This is a new one for 2016 introduced by Taylors and I had my name on the waiting list for it. I will show it to you next year when it blooms. It is very special.
I love Clematis viticella and ‘Madame Julia Correvon’ is a great favourite and is another long-flowering one.

Clematis viticella 'Madame Julia Correvon'

Clematis viticella ‘Madame Julia Correvon’

Finally, an impulse buy, I had to have ‘Tie Dye’ when I came across it selling for half price. The flowers are so eye-catching.

Clematis 'Tie Dye'

Clematis ‘Tie Dye’

I have to have a seat in my secret garden of course. The one I designed and had made by a blacksmith has been hiding in a dark corner of the garden and so here it sits now and I think it has really come into its own.
I decided to edge the paving stones with Lavender ‘Hidcote’.

I also thought the little lead putto which belonged to my parents looks good here.



Until June, he used to spurt water into the pond from his conch shell. Unfortunately, he met with an accident. On our Garden Open Day, I thought the flow of water was a bit sluggish so I poked a pointy stick down the hole and it broke off and jammed. Telling me how silly I was, the Pianist decided to drill it out with his electric drill. The drill bit broke off and got stuck inside. Which I thought was even sillier. Anyway, sadly the putto’s fountain days are over, but I think he looks very nice in my secret garden. I decided to give him some plants to preside over.

The sedum om the left was a present from lovely Christina. As you can see the black membrane still shows round the edges. This will have disappeared next time you see the secret garden. As I said, it is not quite finished off yet.
One of the other  plants is the gorgeous grass Pennisetum ‘Red Buttons’.

Pennisetum 'RedButtons'

Pennisetum ‘Red Buttons’

I aim to have fragrance here all year round and so for summer, lilies are essential. I find that the tall growing Orienpet lilies do not get so badly eaten by lily beetle. I have Lilium ‘Leslie Woodriff’

Lilium 'Leslie Woodriff'

Lilium ‘Leslie Woodriff’

And the pretty Lilium ‘Beverley’s Dream’

Lilium 'Beverley's Dream'

Lilium ‘Beverley’s Dream’

Now I have just about finished the planting I have to be patient and wait. I have spent a lot of time and thought in this part of the garden this summer and it gives me a lot of pleasure. I was a bit crushed when a garden visitor said ‘What are you going to do here?’ a while ago. In my mind’ s eye I have done it;  it is already there, fully mature, fragrant and beautiful.  But never mind, watching things grow is part of the fun.



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62 Responses to The Secret Garden Revealed.

  1. Fabulous! It certainly was a lot of work. I will be looking forward to see how it matures.

  2. Tina says:

    There’s a lot to love in this post and its subject, not the least of which is the gentleman with the wheelbarrow. I was disappointed that he’s not related to you, though. It’s gorgeous–and I hope you’ll return to show its growth. Your bench is stunning!

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Tina. No, I draw the line at showing the Pianist’s bottom to the world. Even though it is much nicer than the gent’s in the picture.
      I had the bench made to match my spider gate. I had two and one of them is now gracing my son’s jetty garden.
      I shall certainly show the secret garden next year when I hope it will be looking more mature.

  3. Christina says:

    What an exciting project, like you I often ‘see’ the finished effect as soon as something us planted whereas others have to wait until the planting has matured, I’m then surprised when they say (years down the line) that they like the ‘new’ area!!!! You’ve chosen some very choice plants, but I knew you would. ENJOY. The stems of the sedum have been turned into cuttings and several already have new leaves shooting so it will be interesting to see how they grow fir you and me, Sedums seem to be one of the very few flowering plants that thrive during the summer here.

  4. Wow, my garden is evolving in the same way! I have no orphan pots currently, do you have any left? It takes a creative mind to sort that out. My mind’s eye sees plants the same way, full grown and flowering.

    I love the bench – I think it matches your gate? I will be waiting for next summer’s pictures and will say a prayer for the Pittosporums and Loquat! Little Gem Magnolia is fairly common here and grows to 25′ by 15 or so. You will love the fragrance. I am envious of all the Clematis.

    • Chloris says:

      Oh yes, I still have lots of plants waiting forlornly in pots.For instance, I grew some rowan trees from seeds and I now have about 13 little rowans. I have no room for a grove of rowans, but this is the kind of thing I do. I grow them because I can. And then I can’t bear to throw them away.
      Yes, I had the bench made to go with the gate. My son has its twin on his jetty.
      My Magnolia will grow 25′ by 15′? Oh dear, I will have to move it. I thought it was compact but I didn’t examine the label. It has already bloomed even though it is so small.

  5. pbmgarden says:

    Your secret garden is so uplifting. I can feel your enthusiasm. It’s lovely.

  6. bittster says:

    Oh my you have quite a few special clematis. Your garden will be even more overwhelmingly floral in June when these take off. Between the roses and this you should be quite pleased.
    I’ve been looking forward to this post for quite a while and am ecstatic to finally see it. Very much worth the wait and you really have been busy! I want my own secret garden now as well, I just need to find a corner to hide it in. The arbors and trellises are perfect, and you’re going to have a lot of fun covering them up. Winter garden last year, secret garden this year… I’m wondering what’s next!

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Frank.I certainly am looking forward to next June in my secret garden. By then it should be a little more secret.
      I think you should have a secret garden too, you need a hideaway more than I do as you have young children. It’s a lovely place to idle away a happy hour whilst you are pretending to be gardening.

  7. mrsdaffodil says:

    This is sure to be quite lovely–breathtaking, even. I , too, have plants that have been in pots for a long time. Thanks to your post, I will start calling them ‘maids in waiting’. I feel less guilty already!

  8. Oh, how fun to see the garden coming together! The trellises look great! You had me a bit “worried” with the greeting card. LOL. I think there is a Naked Garden Day at some point during the year. This would be a good card to share with gardening friends on that day.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Beth. I hope you weren’t offended by the bare bottomed man. I lost a follower overnight. I can just imagine somebody looking at it with disapproving, pursed lips and saying ‘I thought that this was gardening blog, if that’s the sort of thing I am going to find here, I am off. Disgusting!’.It was probably a step too far, as it is only recently that I wrote a post about the Naughty Vicar of Stiffkey.

  9. Kris P says:

    I love the structure you’ve created and the fact that you’ve managed to squeeze in so many beautiful plants. As I was reading through the post, it occurred to me that much of what you’ve planted would be perfectly at home here (in some cases with perhaps a little more water). Generally, not much of what grows in your garden is mirrored in my own but there are quite a few twins and cousins in your secret garden and mine, like Corokia ‘Sunsplash’, Pittosporum tobira, Pittosporum tenuifolium, Magnolia grandiflora, and Coprosma. I think I’d feel quite at home there! I’ll enjoy watching it grow.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Kris. ‘Squeeze in’ is probably the right word, I shall probably have to move some of them in a few years. But in the meantime I want an enclosed effect as quickly as possible. It is indeed unusual for us to have some plants in common. How big does the Coprosma grow? I have never had it before.

  10. Wow, you have been busy! Marvellous to see how the secret garden has come together in just one year and your beautiful bench looks just right as the centrepiece. I wonder if think coir lasts longer than bark mulch and whether you grew Pennisetum ‘Red Buttons’ from seed. I lost mine, then read it’s short-lived/annual and that I should have sown fresh seed in autumn.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Kate. I am told that the coir lasts much longer than bark and I think it looks nicer. I was worried that it might blow all over the garden, but so far it hasn’t. When it rains, it changes colour to a rather nice conker shade and it expands. I bought ‘Red Buttons’, it was an impulse buy. I didn’t realise that it is short lived. So many of these lovely pennisetums seem to be.What a shame.

  11. Very impressed. You certainly have good structure there and a hoard of exciting plants to support it. I can understand why the finished article is already in your mind’s eye ….. and suspect it won’t be long before it is realised. By the way, our neighbour has two Pittosporum tobira in tubs at the front of his property and hasn’t watered them in 10 years, that’s in dry East Kent, and still they look reasonable on the neglect. Have a great week!

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Dan. It is amazing how things have grown this summer even with the drought. The membrane has worked well and I am thinking of using it in other areas, specially ones with pernicious weed like ground elder.. I put the pittospermum in a pot originally because I wasn’t sure whether it was hardy. It seems to be hardy enough, but the poor thing was so badly pot- bound that I had to break the pot to release it.

  12. Sam says:

    Wowser, you’ve been busy. What a collection of interesting plants. I’m sure it’s hugely satisfying to sit on your bench, admire all your hard work, smell the wonderful fragrance and relax. And it’ll only get better when everything’s grown and you can hide away!

    • Chloris says:

      Oh yes, I am really enjoying it Sam. In fact the rest of the garden has been a little neglected this year as I always seem to gravitate down here.What I need is a glass roof so that I can enjoy it in winter.

  13. Bodger says:

    Thank you for a great article. I like the idea of re-making such a large area. Clearly you have given your imagination free rein; I love your choice of plants and envy your freedom to choose soggy bottom boys like clematis (I’m on sand) and borderline hardy Eriobotrya and Magnolia. Your combinations look extremely tasty, as does your alfresco wheelbarrow man. Delicious!

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you. It is much easier starting from scratch with an area instead of working round someone else’ s planting. It has been very dry this summer and I have been planting during the drought, but the membrane with coir on top has kept everything beautifully moist. The Eriobotrya may well succomb to frost, but its worth a chance. After all it was free.

  14. Flighty says:

    A most enjoyable post and lovely pictures. Goodness me you have been busy, and it’s all looking and sounding really good. I look forward to seeing it next year once it’s all bedded-in, grown and weathered. xx

  15. Eliza Waters says:

    What a fabulous project – kudos! It is inspiring to see a new garden made from scratch, something I haven’t done in a long time. With all those fragrant plants, it will be a wonderful place to while away the hours on a warm afternoon.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Eliza. It it fun to start a project from scratch. I always find it difficult incorporating somebody else’ s planting into my schemes. I am grateful for mature trees and shrubs, but they are often the wrong plants in the wrong place.

  16. rusty duck says:

    The secret garden is going to look and pong absolutely delightful. You will love Emma Hamilton, she’s a stunner and has a very reliable second flush (hot flush?). Mine has been gearing up for it all summer.

  17. Cathy says:

    I am very impressed and inspired too Chloris! The trellis is a lovely way to create a private area in the garden, and I love all that varied foliage you have planted around it too. I look forward to seeing it grow too!

  18. I love it! How fun it will be see it all grow. I love the idea of having a secret place to escape to.

  19. It’s a wonderful creation and already has a great feel about it. It will be interesting to see it develop and fill with more treasures. I love your bench design too.

  20. Crikey. You have been busy! I am surprised that you’ve found the time to peruse cards involving naked gardeners.
    I love Clematis rehderiana too. I just realised when I was reading this post that I haven’t got it anywhere in my garden, so thanks for the reminder. The concept of ‘maids in waiting’ is fab. Some of my maids have been waiting for so long, that they really ought to be transferred to hospital corner. Never mind. They will hit the soil this autumn, all being well. Lovely post. I look forward to seeing this area of your garden as it matures.

    • Chloris says:

      I don’ t make a habit of looking for naked gardeners, I was looking for a bithday card for a friend and that seemed to fit the bill. It’ s amazing how even the most neglected maids in waiting recover once they are planted out.

  21. Peter Herpst says:

    Amazingly wonderful! So many great plants, fabulous structure, the bench is to die for, and the putto story had me laughing! Congratulations on the fruition of your dream. I’m looking forward to seeing how it fills in!

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you for your enthusiasm for my project Peter. I am delighted with it. And of course next year it will look even better when everything has had chance to grow.

  22. Cathy says:

    Good grief Chloris! What are you trying to do those people (that person?) who have had a year’s embargo on plant buying…?!!! What an exciting project, eevn though I though you were building a climbing frame at first – well you were, but not for you and the pianist to climb on! I love how you enthusiastically cram everything in – and just because you can. Tomorrow will look after itself when the time comes so you enjoy all your plants NOW Chloris. Are most of your new clematis from Taylors? I am afraid I shall be looking elsewhere as they have been almost bizarrely unco-operative about replacing a clematis that was wrongly labelled – and I have spent so much with them in recent years too. Must pay a return visit at some stage to experience your secret garden in person – thanks for sharing it with us electronically in the meantime.

    • Chloris says:

      I have crammed things in, but as so much was free or hanging about the place in pots, I shan’ t feel bad about thinning things out in years to come. I only bought 2 clematis from Taylors. Rehdriana I couldn’ t find locally and Koreana ‘ Amber’ I fell in love with. My other Clematis were local and none cost more than £5. ‘ Miss Bateman’ was a gift.
      I shall look forward to you coming for another visit.

      • Cathy says:

        It’s a good feeling, getting all those pots planted out properly though! And I feel better when I take things out that I don’t want and am able to pass them on to someone else

  23. Brian Skeys says:

    I think the fan shaped trellis is a great idea, your secret garden will look wonderful next year when it all starts to mature. I look forward to seeing it.

  24. Chloris says:

    Thank you Brian. I will show you how it looks next summer.

  25. You really do have some wonderful plants, I am drooling!

  26. Chloris says:

    It was very cost effective using plants I already had about the place. I felt I was saving so much that I could splash out on the bought ones without feeling too guilty.

  27. I love how your secret garden came out! I’m looking into doing something similar as far as the wooden structure, but having a fire pit in the center. I’m sure I’ll be back for some more inspiration!

  28. Omg! Thats a freaking masterpiece! Cant wait for the plants to fill up the space!!

    And the liliums are to die for! 😍😍

  29. Daily Sunrise says:

    …….and so Adam took a wheel-burrow to collect more apples☺

  30. cranetalk says:

    Hello from a fellow Suffolk Gardener! I have been reading about your secret garden project, it must be really wonderful by now. What is the mulch/woodchip that you have used in the large white bales? Would you mind telling me where you buy it from as I really struggle to buy in sufficient quantity.

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