Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Update on the Secret Garden

Some of you know of my latest project: a secret garden in the backyard of the house I'm currently renting. I've always been enchanted by the idea of a Secret Garden, probably from when I first read the book by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It was one of my favorite books as a child. Being able to go somewhere and shut the door behind you, to escape into a magical world where no one else could find you, was exactly what I wanted as a kid.

The people that lived in the house before me, who are actually the owners of the house, had erected a tall wood fence around an area in the backyard in which to keep their dogs. When I moved in on January 1, the area looked like this:As you can see, even from the outside, the fence was something of an eyesore. The pictures and planters on the exterior are mine, but you get the idea.

I certainly didn't have the idea of a secret garden when I first moved in. In fact, for the first month, I didn't know what to do with the area. First I made it into a storage area for my gardening tools and pots and whatever. But that really didn't work, because the area was dirt and weeds and, because there was no overhead covering, it would just turn into a muddy mess when it rained. I thought of making it a vegetable garden, but determined that the area didn't get enough sun every day.

At first, I talked about making it a secret garden as a joke, but the more I thought about it, the more I knew that it was important thing for me to do. I had just emerged from the year from hell. I needed something that would heal me, keep me occupied mentally, yet not be too taxing. Besides, gardening is strongly tied into my creativity needs; when I can't write, I garden. And I certainly wasn't in any shape to write after last year. I also wanted a garden that I could use as a photography studio of sorts.

So this is what it looks like as of last weekend:It's just this dirt here: it is amazing. My neighbor tells me that Lakewood was farm country before they built the town back in the 1950s. It makes sense.

When I tell people that I've created a Secret Garden, some laugh as if it's a silly, childish thing. Which throws me. Why wouldn't you want to have one of these? Besides, it has become a haven for various animals, real and fake, as well as butterlies and grasshoppers. I'm helping the environment. So far, the biggest problem has been the bermuda grass that occupied the area before; I had tried to kill it before planting. Silly me. I should have known that bermuda grass, which is nothing short of evil, always comes back. Always. So I spend sometimes up to a couple of hours a week pulling up where the strands have snuck in.

I really haven't spent a lot of money on this. Probably the most most has been spent on the cobblestones for the pathway. All of the roses were given to me; most of the other plants were bought as small starters. My sisters and Mom gave me a few plants and also helped me with digging and planting when they were down in April. My best friend gave me a truck load of bulbs, and other things were planted as seed. My neighbors Bo and Kathy just gave me a bunch of plants from Kathy's mother's garden.

So this has been a labor of love for a lot of people, not just me.


Kris said...

Your Secret Garden looks amazing! I found a few hummingbird feeders if you want them! They never come to my place, and I don't know why, so the feeders are just taking up space that I could use for some other purpose. That would add a nice dimension to your population!

katie said...

Laurie - your secret garden is such a wonderful idea. I know the healing power of gardening (especially those treks to the nursery on the coldest day of the year for just the right bareroot peach tree!) You are doing exactly the right thing for you coming off the year from hell. I hope the garden helps you regain your sense of balance and some semblance of serenity. Hugs to you, Xena, and Annie!! Love, Katie

Laurie Powers said...

Kris, absolutely! I have hummingbirds once in a while - maybe the feeders will bring them more often!

Katie, good to hear from you! Yes I think of that peach tree with fondness. Still can't believe we did that. I don't think peach trees would do well here - it doesn't get cold enough in the winter!

Lana Gramlich said...

Very cool! I had wanted to garden my @$$ off when I bought our house a couple of years ago, only to discover that our "soil" is too hard, rocky & acidic. I find it ironic, since we're surrounded by woods & wildflowers. I also found that that would do nicely, anyway. On occasion (like last year,) a bird or raccoon or some such will make a deposit & we'll get a singular, spectacular flower somewhere. That's good enough for me (& a bit of a treat & surprise, really.)
In a similar vein, a recent, unwanted house guest (mouse,) must have been gathering sunflower seeds from the bird seed bag & bringing them over to my jade pot to eat, because suddenly I have 10 sunflowers starting to grow there. I know they can't stay there, though & I'm wondering what the heck to do with them...
I'm sure you'll enjoy your secret garden, at any rate. It looks lovely. I would love to come have a tea there. Wish I could send you my sunflowers!

Laurie Powers said...

Thanks, Lana, but I don't think they'd survive the mail. :)
I'm also wondering if sunflowers can be transplanted. I've never worked with them so not sure if they are easy movers.

thanks for the wonderful post - although it makes me wonder if all my bird seed is going to attract the same kind of unwelcome house guests....


I'd love a private secret part of my garden but alas it's not big enough.

Laurie Powers said...

small gardens are many times better than big ones. Less maintenance.

"If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need"- Cicero