How to Create a Secret Garden

From This Old House.

Ask This Old House landscape designer Jenn Nawada cleans up an overgrown garden and redesigns it as a secret garden.

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Time: 6-8 hours

Cost: $3000

Skill Level: Moderate

Tools List for a Secret Garden:

1. As with any overgrown garden, start by removing all the weeds and pruning back plants you intend to save.
2. Loosely define a general path with multiple entry and exit points throughout the garden.
3. Pick a few different places in the garden to act as “destinations” for people to experience as they walk along the path. Some examples of destinations include benches, large shrubs, and small ponds.
4. Use plants to lead from the paths to those destination spots to highlight them in the garden.
5. Pick plants of varying heights, colors, and textures to give the garden a nice visual impact.

In Jenn’s opinion, a “secret garden” landscape design requires elements that allow a person to experience and participate in the garden. Elements like walkways, entrance/exit points, and destinations within the garden are all key elements to a good secret garden design.

Like with many of Jenn’s landscape designs, she relied heavily on elements of the garden that were already in place, though most of the things she reused can also be found at garden centers and nurseries.

Throughout the garden, Jenn used a variety of plants, including sedum, Cherokee brave dogwood, sempervivum, stonecrop, hen & chicks, lavender, provence, Hakone grass, blue jean baby Russian sage, and witch hazel. In Destination 2, Jenn planted some thornless dwarf blackberry bushes and some Indian summer raspberry bushes. In Destination 3 by the pond, Jenn planted a Tamukeyama Threadleaf Japanese Maple. All of these plants can be found at nurseries.

Expert assistance with this segment was provided by Yard Works, Inc. ( and Nawada Landscape Design (

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Keywords: This Old House, How-to, home improvement, DIY, ask this old house, jenn nawada, garden, landscaping, secret garden, landscape design

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