Lose yourself in a secret garden

Secret garden sunlounger
Helen Stone,-Interiors Writer

Dedicate a corner of your garden as a quiet zone where you can put the world on pause…

Let’s face it, the garden has never seen so much action. It’s the new social space for events from morning coffee to alfresco dining and catching up with loved ones, and there’s often a stampede outdoors at the first glimmer of sun. But amid all this activity there is still the opportunity to set aside a small oasis of calm.

In Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic story, The Secret Garden, that oasis was a walled garden behind a hidden door unlocked with an ancient key. Few of us will have the luxury of such space but we can all put in place visual boundaries to set a special area apart.

Zone out

When choosing the right spot, it makes sense to work with what you already have. Shade and privacy can be added so think about the things that are out of your control: how the light falls, the view, accessibility and that all-important sense of peace and quiet away from the house and the neighbour’s trampoline. You don’t need a huge amount of space for your retreat – maybe one lounger or garden sofa; in a small garden a single chair can be enough. Whatever size your garden, it’s worth trying out different areas with temporary solutions before you settle on something permanent.

Privacy is an essential though. A fixed structure such as a pergola or woven willows has romance, but a sail or parasol can be just as effective as a temporary solution or quick fix, and you can get a similar feel from a pod chair. When planning a garden, consider adding screening elements throughout to create pockets of privacy. ‘We often design slatted fences and screens in the garden which give the space a contemporary, yet private feel,’ says landscape architect, Victoria Wade. A clever design trick is to make sure you can’t see to the end of your garden – something that can easily be achieved using planters and pots, and you could play with outdoor mirrors too. A small outside space will feel bigger when the boundaries vanish from view.

Victoria recommends bamboo. ‘It’s fast growing, easy to look after and is brilliant for screening,’ she says. ‘It also looks and sounds lovely when it blows in the wind. Bamboo has a bad reputation for taking over a garden so growing it in pots is the perfect way to keep it under control. Use the biggest pot you can, and keep it well-watered in summer – bamboo hates drying out.’

Secret garden pod chair

A favourite seat

Comfort is everything here and you’ll want a chair you can take to for hours. Don’t worry about tying in with the rest of your garden furniture – this is a world away on its own. ‘Feel free to mix colours, textures and prints to create an eclectic style for your secret garden that reflects your personality,’ says Ian Ellis, Partner & Buyer Outdoor Living. 

hanging pod chair can be a wonderful cocoon from which to watch the world pass by, thanks to comfy curves and generous cushioning. ‘Use a hanging pod chair to make the most of a little suntrap or sheltered area,’ suggests Ian. Add a few extra cushions and a sheepskin to turn it into a Scandi-style reading corner, where you can escape with a good book or a favourite podcast.

Style to suit you

This place is all about pleasing you so pile on the cushions, add a colourful rug, a side table and some accessories. What else does the space need to help you relax? It could be colour on one wall, a living wall, scented planting or perhaps a water feature. Layer up elements to make it irresistibly inviting and you'll come back to it again and again.

With evenings longer now, it helps to include some lighting in your retreat whether that's candle light, festoon lights or a portable solar-powered lamp. And, no, it's not over-indulgent to add a little fire pit either. This is a place for relaxing and day dreaming so add in whatever helps that happen.

‘Our patio area is my secret garden,’ says Victoria. ‘We put up a slatted timber screen between us and our neighbours to provide privacy, which we painted black. I love painting timber black as it makes the greenery of your plants really stand out. I planted up some big pots with bamboo and birch trees to provide screening and shade, then added some strings of festoon lights. I then bring out squishy cushions, blankets and sheepskins to make it extra cosy when I escape.'

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