Secret Garden Design Ideas: How To Create Your Own Secret Garden

Learn how to create your own secret garden with these secret garden design ideas that will turn your backyard into a relaxing retreat you won’t want to leave.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about being in Charleston, SC and all of the beautiful window boxes I saw, which I’m definitely planning to incorporate into my landscape design.

Secret gardens are a beautiful way of garden landscaping that will create your dream garden in your backyard. Find out what you need to include in your garden design (like garden paths and patios) to make your beautiful backyard garden a reality.

Secret Garden Design Ideas

The other thing I love about Charleston is the gardens. Many of the houses have fairly small yards but they still have the most beautiful gardens. Even from the street, they look so inviting you just want to go in and sit down.

I think it’s because they all feel like romantic secret garden rooms, gas-lit lanterns and all!

So when I created my backyard plan, I decided to use some of the Charleston secret garden design ideas to do my own version in my standard suburban yard.

Of course, I didn’t have the beautiful architecture or the old cobblestone walkways. But I still managed to get some of that secret garden room feeling.

Keep reading to find out how to create your own secret garden room even if you have a suburban yard.

1. Define An Entryway

Charleston wrought iron gate is the first one of the secret garden design ideas

The first element of a secret garden that all Charleston gardens seem to have is defined entry ways, usually with an arbor and a gate leading into them.

The arbor creates an entryway that looks and feels special.

The gate makes you notice that you’re entering (you actually have to stop to open it).

Wrought iron arbor over a backyard secret garden pathway

While not nearly as grand as the Charleston version, installing a standard garden arbor over your entry way still has the same appeal.

You Might Also Like: Creative Garden Gates

2. Create A Sense Of Privacy

Round wrought iron window looking into a private garden ©Heather Wissman - stock.adobe.com
©Heather Wissman – stock.adobe.com

The second of my secret garden design ideas is to create a sense of privacy.

In Charleston, you can often see into the garden but rarely get to see the whole thing. Often the gates or peephole windows have wrought iron details that obscure the view even more.

Lattice fence is a secret garden design idea for backyard decks

While wrought iron screens may be out of most people’s budgets (including mine!), you can accomplish a similar feel with any kind of divider that helps to obstruct the view.

A lattice fence that partially encloses an area works well (like my mother has on one side of her deck).

Plants and an umbrella over chairs create a secret garden

Plants can also create a great privacy screen.

Romantic curtains provide privacy for a secret garden table ©#moreideas | stock.adobe.com
©#moreideas – stock.adobe.com

For a less permanent option, hang some curtains to create a secret garden room.

Click HERE to find some more backyard privacy ideas.

3. Install Curved Paths

Gated alley entrance to secret garden with curved pathway. Charleston, South Carolina. ©Noel - stock.adobe.com
©Noel – stock.adobe.com

Another way Charleston gardens create the feeling of mystery that makes a secret garden successful is to install curved garden paths.

You can’t see exactly where it ends up…but it sure makes you want to find out!

Click here to find some DIY garden path ideas.

4. Make Sure There’s Enough Shade

Seating in the shade
Seating in the shade

The next one of my backyard secret garden ideas prevents the one thing that can ruin that special romantic feeling really quickly…having the hot sun beating down on your garden room all afternoon.

If you are lucky enough to have trees providing shade for your seating area, you are ahead of the game. But if not, try to provide some man-made shade to keep your space cool and comfortable.

You can find some DIY backyard shade ideas here.

5. Provide a Destination

Private garden with brunch table ©#moreideas - stock.adobe.com
©#moreideas – stock.adobe.com

Although you don’t get to see the final destination of many of the Charleston garden paths, I can only imagine that it is somewhere worth going to. Which is why the next one of my secret garden design ideas is to provide a place to go to.

Relaxing seating on a secret garden deck

Whether that’s a beautiful table for lunch or a place to put your feet up, providing a pretty and relaxing seating area is a must for creating a garden room in your backyard.

6. Light It Up

An arbor leading into a secret garden lit up at night

Adding landscape lighting will make sure you get the most out of your backyard retreat. And make it even more romantic at night.

Even in the evening, Charleston gardens have charm and it’s all about the lighting.

Landscape lighting in a secret garden at night

I didn’t go so far as to invest in a gas lamp (although I would love to!), but landscape lighting can help any yard feel special at night.

7. Add Some Romance

Wrought iron gateway to Charleston secret garden ©balashark - stock.adobe.com
©balashark – stock.adobe.com

Finally, the last of my secret garden design ideas…a secret garden wouldn’t be a secret garden without some romantic touches (if you ask me).

In Charleston, it’s kind of built into the whole city…the architecture, the lanterns, the wrought iron, the cobblestones…you get the idea.

Outdoor brunch table under star shaped chandeliers in a gazebo ©#moreideas - stock.adobe.com
©#moreideas – stock.adobe.com

In our own yards, we probably have to put a little more work into creating a romantic environment. Whether it’s hanging outdoor chandeliers, using your crystal glasses outside or just lighting a few candles, the added touches are what will really make your secret garden feel special.

Hopefully, you’ve found some inspiration to create your own secret garden using these design ideas inspired by the secret garden masters in Charleston.

Have comments or questions about our secret garden design ideas? Tell us in the section below.

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17 Responses

  • Your Secret Garden ideas are wonderful!!! Beautiful!!! Under #2 you have one that says plants make a great screen, but I’m wondering where you found that beautiful umbrella!!! Does it have the light attached??

    • Thanks, Martha! I got it from Pier 1. It looks like they have sold out this year, but they may have it back in the spring. No, it doesn’t have a light attached.

  • Have wanted to create a secret garden for years and am beginning now. I love your ideas and pictures. So many great points. Thanks!

  • Hi,
    I love secret gardens and I think I’ve visited the most amazing of secret gardens which is The Secret Graden of Wendy Whiteley in Sydney, Australia.
    There’s a coffee table book by the same title by WW and it was my accidental finding of this book at a local library in Melbourne, Australia, that actually took me on the trail to discover the Secret Garden!! It was so much fun and so I shared this with you.
    Back home in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, I have created a kind of fairy garden/Alice in Wonderland/secret garden in the front entrance area of my apartment! I also have plants extending to the inside of the house, the balcony area and the kitchen and every room of the house.
    I plant NASA accredited plants for air purification, mostly and they are doing wonders to give better air quality as I’m bang in the city!
    I have very little sunlight and rain in my front garden but much love and care has given me great results. It is also entirely an organic garden. Only water that I use for washing my grains, fruits and vegetables in the kitchen and kitchen refuse I put into a compost pit, nourish the plants!
    Luckily for me these apartments have planter boxes and I use those abandoned by other dwellers.
    So it’s a container garden in which I have created the sort of secret garden with a mirror attached to one wall so as to give depth to the garden. I have graded the plants so the tall ones go at the back when you look from different angels and the ground cover like plants bellow.
    I’ve included some fairy elements as I also make miniature and fairy items and gardens.
    There’s also a water feature I’ve made myself by converting a stool into a toadstool on which I’ve placed this glass bowl with water.
    It gives me endless pleasure to tend and be in this garden. Thought I’d share.

    • Thanks, Sharmini! I’ll have to add Wendy Whiteley’s garden to my travel list 🙂 Your secret garden sounds beautiful. You have so many creative ideas for turning an apartment entrance into a special garden room 🙂

  • If you are ever back in Charleston you should know that is the garden gate is open you are free to go in and walk around! If closed then no. Natives Charlestonians and those lucky enough to live close enough to visit often know this secret!

    • Thanks for the tip, Caroline! I didn’t know that…and I live in Greenville, SC, so close enough to get there a couple of times a year. I’ll definitely take advantage of that the next time I’m there 🙂

  • G’day,Wanda,you must add the job’mindreader’to your arsenal because I recently commenced a kinda’secret garden’ when I fashioned a side door(into the street)from various timbers help together by an unseen steel frame,painted it red,and with the help of my children and’late’sweetheart, began the project..as I work full-time,time management is paramount,however,three years down-the-track I’m far from finished..I have added the’shy princess’series of statues,one of those has a fountain,and I’ve installed a pump and it works a treat..have silver birch’s to plant,grape vine looks good,especially in autumn,and apart from a handmade winding brick path and lavender bushes,I haven’t proceeded further until,UNTIL this morning(4:15am) after I returned from work I discovered 10 things that can grown under trees,etc..and,as I have a rainforest tree,there,I think,would be perfect for azaleas,rhodododendrons,hydrangeas,pieris japonica,Japanese’tree’peony,etc,etc..I have just added an almost life-size shy princess within the precinct of the r/f tree,however,when I open the side gate from the street’she’looks a little sad standing there withot proper company and,as I said recently,when I head to my nursery,I now have an added reason to visit besides seeking’blue’colour flora..thanks Wanda..it is true-‘show me your company and I’ll tell you what you are like’..cheers..Ron from’down under’..

    • Thanks, Ron! Your secret garden with the shy princess statues sounds awesome. But the Rhododendrons, Hydrangeas, Pieris and Tree Peonies are really good options for filling it out 🙂

  • Thank you Wanda for your support..it is’late’AUTUMN here in Eastern Australia,and working outside has been a real chore due to the above-average temperatures all Summer,and discovering your website is somehow recompense for my work to date or perhaps I need to recalibrate my’gardening time?’..the four that you have shown me seem to seem soon-to-be-part of the garden of 105,and thanks mate you are a’treat’..I will NEXT WEEK head to my nursery as I have said last week with a list of four so far and need to research’drought-tolderant’flora too I guess!cheers Wanda and enjoy your spring when it arrives,as I know you sure will..Ron Lock..Geelong..Victoria-Australia..(your a cutie)..

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