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The Allure of a Secret Cottage Garden

by | May 28, 2014 | Gardens & Outdoor Rooms

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The Allure of a Secret Cottage GardenTraditional Home

Last year I confided to you about my desire for a secret garden. Before you look at the photo above and gasp and tell me how awesome it looks, that picture you see above is not mine. You can find mine below as it looked last year before I planted it. Mine is still in process heheh — as are so many things at my house. IF ONLY mine looked like that!

But I did plant a few things last year and made a bit of progress on the secret garden. I actually haven’t worked on my secret garden yet this year other than to start pulling weeds, but I will say that I was thrilled to see all of my vines, roses and hydrangeas that I planted last year have returned this year!! Happy surprise, nothing died!

My grandma had a beautiful garden. While she lived in a nearly below ground apartment, she created the most beautiful hilly corner flower garden you ever saw as you rounded the parking lot corner and peered down into her small plot of land. Never mind that it was too dark and sloped to plant. She created a beautiful flower garden in that very “it’s not possible” space that thrived for years and years. Perhaps that’s where I was inspired to want a flower garden of my own.

The Allure of a Secret Cottage Garden

My secret garden plans

I lived in one 1920s era house years ago that had many established cottage flowers. It delighted me so much each year to cut my own roses and other flowers from the garden. I always imagined the woman who planted all those flowers and how much happiness they brought her. She may never have thought about the future ladies of the house being so grateful for the beauty she planted, but it was a gift!

Because my house now was a boring suburban plot of land with no charming anything to be found or discovered, it is up to me if there is every going to be anything of beauty here.

So now I envision plenty of flowers to cut and enjoy in my secret garden. Even though I have a very VERY small space for it and limited time to work on it, I dream of it being a perfectly charming place to stop and smell the roses. A place where I could invite you for tea if you were to visit! It might take me years to get it right but if we live here for the long haul, it will keep me plenty entertained every season just trying to make it a little more beautiful. I will enjoy watching it grow.  It’s a slow process, much like the one we talked about yesterday in decorating a home. And even if we move before it is done, it will give another lady of the house a head start.

The Allure of a Secret Cottage Garden

I spied this secret cottage garden on Traditional Home and it was too wonderful to not share. There are more pictures of this lovely garden on Traditional Home. I hope it inspires you as much as secret gardens inspire me! I ADORE that charming little garden house! What fun it would be to putter around in that potting shed!

The Allure of a Secret Cottage Garden

PS. Remember when I said I was going to plant my first vegetable garden? Well, I did! And, we had our FIRST TASTE OF THE LETTUCE WE GREW OURSELVES! It was delicious on our BBQ burgers last night. See my cell phone snap of the lettuce in my whiskey barrel garden?  I’ll share more of our garden progress and the secret garden soon. #highfives #livingofftheland

Are you planting or tending flower or vegetable gardens this year?


  1. Christi {Jealous Hands}

    I know your secret garden is going to be just lovely – it’s such a pretty beginning already! I dream of lovely cottage gardens, flowers EVERYWHERE, and I am working on it. But we started with a lot of wide open space & it’s a challenge to think about where to start! Small spaces or big spaces – both have their issues. Your lettuce is so pretty! We love growing our own!

  2. Candice

    I love English Country ANYTHING – homes, furniture, gardens. In order to keep me from moving there, my husband is determined to make our home ‘ a little piece of England’. Please visit my blog : I’d love you to see what we’re doing AND to meet our Goldendoodle, Bunny.

  3. Amy

    I love the little raised area where the chairs are! I can see the roses planted along that edge, to create a screen of pinks and whites, and the fragrance would be amazing as you sat on the chairs in your secret space. You can take advantage of that fence/wall on the back side and plant vines or climbing hydrangea to cover it. For your readers, I would like to suggest the forums (specifically Cottage Gardens forum) for a wealth of real-life advice, photos, and inspiration. There are gardening forums for just about every type of plant, location, or specialty. A true wealth of information and a great place to get answers to gardening problems, bounce design ideas off others, etc. Love that website! I am “ravensfan52” on it if you want to see some of the pics I have posted in the past.

    • Rose L

      Just saying hello to you, Amy! I haven’t stopped by the Cottage in while but I will once I get done planting the veggie garden. Here’s hoping you have a great gardening season. MeMo

  4. Faith

    Yeah for growing your own veggies! Unfortunately, I’ve not had much luck with vegetable gardening. Recently I stumbled across a form of gardening on Pinterest called “keyhole gardening” and was inspired. It is a form of gardening taught by missionaries to help impoverished persons grow their own food. I started my own and it looks great. I have small tomatoes already and herb seeds have begun to sprout – exciting! Happy gardening!

  5. Laura

    I really appreciate your focus on patience and time. I have a tiny suburban lot that is a thin layer of mulch over rocks. I too want a lush escape. After two full weekends of very challenging rock harvesting I finally have two small beds. I’m both thrilled and frustrated by how hard it is to make progress. Thanks for reminding me to focus on the long term!

  6. Rose L

    Melissa, I’m a cottage garden addict!! I’m starting on my third garden now, fence is up and rose bushes to surround it will be ordered soon. Gardening is a process, it’s never “done”. Just enjoy your time in dreaming and playing in the dirt and you’ll find satisfaction whether it ever meets the image in your mind or not. It’s such a peaceful happy pursuit! Love the pictures you linked above. I have a building coming from a friend’s farm soon and I’m dreaming of all the ways I can fix it up and use it. It won’t be a potting shed though because my DH is building me a greenhouse instead. Sewing studio? Small guest cottage? Party room? What would you and your readers do with a single car garage sized room??

  7. Stephanie Pontius

    Ah yes, I picture myself some day on my swing under (and over) the canopy (and carpet) of vegetation grown by my own two hands. It might take me the next 20 years, but how’s that for a goal?

  8. sandyc

    My secret garden is truly a secret – nobody knows or believes that it’s going to be. Living in a greenbelt HOA with lots of grass and trees, I can do what I want in my front courtyard and on my back patio, and I can plant with permission around the sides of the house. The plan everywhere is actually containers as the front courtyard has no water line. After three breaks in two months in our 30-year-old line inside my courtyard, for which I’m normally responsible (our generous landscape chairman didn’t charge me), I had them shut the water off outside the wall to my courtyard and in the common area. Luckily we have a wonderful lady here in Sun City West who teaches 2 container gardening courses – flowers/plants and succulents – and I’ve taken the courses twice but too soon the first time and, given yesterday’s post, still a bit too soon this time. But I do have hope and plans, and there’s also the black iron Baker’s rack on the front porch and my really secret vision of a little herb garden on the small Baker’s rack on my screened patio outside my kitchen.

    Now I’ve got to finish my coffee with a response to your wonderful blog yesterday. Got interrupted.

  9. Barbara (WA)

    Oh, I wish my garden looked like the one in Traditional Home! But I do enjoy my greenhouse/potting shed and my fenced garden. I’ve been growing lots of flowers from seed and hope they thrive. Also growing a few veggies. Happy gardenkeeping!

  10. Sammi @Sammi Sunshine

    Oh my goodness I love the idea of your own secret garden. So romantic. I just moved into an older home this past winter, and I’ve had a lot of fun seeing all the plants that have sprouted up! To me, it’s history.

  11. Karen on Bainbridge Island

    Happy your lettuce was tasty and all your plants returned. Always an iffy proposition.

    I just left you a ?? on Instagram. Headed to Cannon Beach on Monday and looking for shopping and dining tips. Will visit Sesame and Lilies for sure.

  12. Susan on Vashon

    I love cottage gardens, the trouble is that the DEER LOVE THEM ALSO!

  13. Elise

    As a 24 y/o student from Denmark who lives in a tiny rented apartment: thank you for making me dream. I can’t wait till I am done with school (just one more year and I’m done with my Master’s, yay!) and I can finally buy a house with my boyfriend. I follow your blog everyday and it makes me look forward to all the good things that will come in the future. Thank you!

  14. Eileen

    After being in this house for 27 years my garden is still and always will be a work in progress. You will never be done and that’s what makes it so exciting year after year. I also started with a blank slate and it has changed many times over the years. My favourite time is in the morning sitting on my back porch with my coffee and listening to the birds singing. That is where the best plans evolve!

  15. Tawn


    I love your garden and I am sure that as time progresses, it will only become more beautiful and peaceful. We really don’t have much of a yard right now (even after 30 yrs. in this house!) My sweet hubby thinks that if we can’t do it all at one time, why start? I am not a yard person. In 40 years of marriage, I have not even cranked a lawnmower, well actually – NEVER! I said all this because I want my own space in our backyard…my secret garden. Is this something that a complete beginner to do? I know that it will take time to become what I am hoping for, but since I have retired I have the time.

  16. Elizabeth

    I have loved, loved, loved reading your blog for the last year or so (and following Jack on Facebook), but I am suddenly finding myself responding to two of your posts in a row! I am the one living in Germany (found my rug at Goodwill the other day-it’s not specifically outdoors, but at 3 euros, who really cares, right?). When we moved into our rental house almost two years ago, our yard was completely grown over. I have the heart of a gardener but absolutely no know-how (and coming from the deep south I was fighting an uphill battle with red mud and a completely shaded yard), so I didn’t know what was plant and what was weed. I explained the situation to the landlady. She took care of plowing everything down. We moved in at the end of September, so the growing season was basically over. I was stunned, shocked, and beyond thrilled the next spring when tulips, hydrangeas, roses, peonies, brown-eyed susans, hostas, and tons of other plants I don’t know sprung up out of nowhere! I have had the most fun the last two years puttering around weeding and pruning, but mainly marveling that I get to live in the midst of this beautiful cottage garden that I’ve always dreamed of but never knew how to create. I also found myself thinking of those who lived here before who carefully and lovingly planted these little guys I love so much. I have added some additional perennials and bulbs so that the next tenants can even more fun surprises after we pack up and move home. I know I will think of this garden for years to come and miss it terribly.

  17. Katherine A. Los

    That little potting shed and garden looks a LOT like a house I pass by in Chelmsford, MA Did the article say where this was???


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