Many years ago, I attended a presentation by a motivational speaker whose description of her secret garden made a lasting impression on me. I still remember that inspired delineation arousing a sense of urgency in me. I left longing. Imagining her cherished mornings, I was galvanized.
I’ve fantasized about having my own secret garden ever since. And now I can pop in anytime! Just like today. In case you are wondering, the weather in Los Angeles can be quite pleasant in December. Actually, I ponder it from my bed even before getting up; the roller shade is within reach. Each day begins with a few minutes of soaking in the view of the garden immediately beyond the frame of the sliding doors, as if it were a painting.
An orderly private enclave, my secret garden is enclosed on all four sides — a sunny walled pocket of magic.
Its main feature is the four-trunk mature fig tree, laden with lush fruit at the end of the summer. Today it is shedding bright yellow leaves. This glorious tree is practically the only plant that remains from the property’s previous iteration; it gives the garden a sense of place and atmosphere. The paths around it divide and organize the plot into zones. When I weed or clean, I can just focus on one area at a time, which makes it easier to tackle and turns a chore into a meditation.
Speaking of meditation, there’s a dedicated section centered on a fountain for that exact purpose. A narrow ipe deck off of the bedroom steps into it. Volunteer Dichondra, growing over the rocks and between the natural stone pavers underfoot, serves as ground cover.
A bench for contemplation is installed under a sturdy arbor with a climbing vine. It has grown into a billowy shape against the fence wall, next to the gate. When perched here, I feel calm and uplifted at once.
Mostly, the garden consists of a long bed — a dense mix-and-match of succulent jumble with small clumps of many kinds. They are arranged into a graphic scheme showing off structural foliage. Each with a character of its own.
There’s always something to do in my secret garden. Even though succulents look luscious all year-round, I prune, tweak, and take things out. Changing plantings here and there gives individual elements a chance to shine. And presents me with so much joy!
Photography: John Lewis