Life in a slow place that quickly steals your heart.


Secret garden

“It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine…” The Secret Garden

It’s been unusual. A cooler and wetter spring…a pandemic that kept us a home. Our secret garden has been the beneficiary. Here is a bit of a photo essay on the effects of perfect growing conditions and lots of attention in our Naramata, British Columbia, Canada garden on the summer solstice.

“I am sure there is Magic in everything, only we have not sense enough to get hold of it and make it do things for us.” The Secret Garden

The purples seem more purple this year…

The pinks more pink…

And we’ve had time to sit and enjoy it all unfolding.

With our pals who are allowed in from time to time…

Just outside the garden walls is our raspberry farm just days away from harvest.

The farm has never looked so tidy. One hour-long spray with round-up would have dealt with all the grass and weeds that invaded the rows but we don’t spray or use chemicals so it was a 160-hour job completed over four months. On hands and knees with a garden fork… It should be easier to maintain going forward with minor attention. It looks great but more importantly the raspberry roots now have less competition for nutrients, water and space. It’s going to be a bumper crop.

A bit of morning magic

Columbines after the rain


Secret garden entrance





Raspberry farm




Statue is called #4 with tree fort in the background


IMG_7662 2.jpg





Secrets and lies — The Secret Garden this morning

A secret is a secret

Just a glance inside a living stained glass window

Clematis spilling out another…

The door is open…


6 a.m. sun


“Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead: So…more “secret” garden

I took my camera out for “a few minutes” in the early morning today for a look-around the secret garden and an hour later had to be dragged away. Here’s a Cole’s Notes look at what held me captivate because sometimes, the biggest secrets you can only tell a stranger.

Unusual red clematis, Rebecca, launched at the Chelsea Flower show in England. It reads a bit pink in this photo with the sun shining through but is very, very red. The shot below better flaunts its redness.

Just opening, Rebecca is the newest variety from Raymond Evison and is named after his eldest daughter. It can be grown in any location and holds it colour well in full sun. It can also be grown in a container.

One more clematis…I’ve forgotten the variety of this purple gem.

Mirror, mirror on the wall…

“The best secrets are the most twisted.” Sara Shepard.

My aquilegia are putting on one final show. It seems strange that two birds as different as the eagle (in Latin, aquila) and the dove (columbus) should both give their name to the same flower — aquilegia or columbine. It is an easy perennial to start from seed and all of mine came from seeds from England germinated in my greenhouse. I’m still collecting.

I love the ruffles.

Aquilegias love the dappled shade in the secret garden and are perfect in its cottage garden setting.

The bees seem to like them too.

“Photography is all about secrets. The secrets we all have and will never tell.” Kim Edwards, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter.

The fine spray of The Handyman’s irrigation also makes it a lovely place to be in the mornings.

Hard to believe this allium is part of the onion and garlic family.

Quick digression to my potager, that I passed by on the way to the secret garden…These chives are related to the allium as well.

…and look lovely in a salad.

“Sometimes since I’ve been in the garden I’ve looked up through the trees at the sky and I have had a strange feeling of being happy as if something was pushing and drawing in my chest and making me breathe fast.” Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden.


“But some secrets are too delicious not to share.” Suzanne Collins, Mockingjay.

Maybe flowers are overrated.

She knows some secrets.

Frogs have taken up residence.

“That, my dear, is what makes a character interesting, their secrets.” Kate Morton, The Forgotten Garden.

IMG_8821“Secrets are like plants. They can stay buried deep in the earth for a long time, but eventually they’ll send up shoots and give themselves away.” Judy Reene Singer, Still Life with Elephant.

Her heart was a secret garden and the walls were very high

“And the secret garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles.” Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

Just like Mary in her Secret Garden, I like the name and the still more the feeling that when its walls shut me in no one knows where I am. The Handyman built my walls five years ago and I’ve been planting and revising ever since. This sheltered spot is maturing nicely and is being discovered by others who see the merit of a trickling brook, pond and shelter from the wind. It’s becoming a mini bird, bee and frog sanctuary.  A family of racoons and another of skunks also make frequent visits to the pond, mostly at night luckily.

Here are a few of the plants blooming today:

Highly-scented iris, unknown variety


Gentiana acaulis

Aquilegia which I grow from seed in my greenhouse, I no longer can call them Columbines…too sad, reminds me of the poor school kids


Aquilegia viridiflora ‘Chocolate Soldier’, a rare collector’s item with seeds from Thompson & Morgan. It’s very fragrant.

Leopard’s Bane, the earliest-blooming of the daisies brings some colour to my pond.

Two new pink azaleas are planted outside the secret garden round gate. They will be more spectacular next year. 

This little guy was was one of the first things we planted. The next photo is what it looks like today.

Shishigashira Japanese Maple has heavily curved green leaves giving an interesting texture to this compact, shrubby tree. It is spectacular in fall and its highly sculptural form will only improve with age. It will slowly reach about 15 feet tall.

Close-up of the Lion’s Head leaves


Another ideal small tree, Japanese stewartia, frames the lady’s head. It gives you lovely peeling bark all season, hot fall colour and it blooms with white June-into-July flowers. It’s a distant relative of the tea family.

Another “before and after”…here is The Handyman installing the edging that will eventually form the garden paths.

Here is the same path lined with orange-scented thyme which will soon be in bloom. I grew all these thyme from seed in the greenhouse. A lot of wins here. It’s extremely fragrant with a delicious scent of balsam and oranges. The flowers are long-lasting and very pretty. It’s drought tolerant and easy to care for. On top of that it is one of the most useful herbs for the kitchen. I ordered my seeds from seedaholic.

Like any good secret, my garden is best revealed in instalments. I’ll post more when new blooms arrive.

“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.” Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden.

Secret Garden…If I show you is it still secret?

IMG_2826A labour of love. Lots of labour…lots of love. The Handyman built me an English secret garden over the past five years. I can’t wait for spring so I’m jumping ahead a few months.

Early mornings in the secret garden is the best time for a coffee while watching the hummingbirds.

As the Okanagan is so hot and dry in summer, the best way to re-create England was to do so in a contained area that could have heaps of compost and good soil and be efficiently irrigated. The soil is very sandy here so this step was key.

Our driveway is steep and curves making this delivery a challenge

My ultimate garden is one where you can shove your hand into rich loamy soil up to your elbow. I’ve been working hard amending the soil every year to keep it that way.

IMG_5415Handyman can do pretty much anything with some rental equipment. The garden is located on what was a hill. We, well…he raised it even more and levelled it before installing cedar fencing around the perimeter.


He built this round gate in the garage in the winter and installed it the first spring we were here. I’ve toyed with painting it to emphasize the roundness but am still deciding. It’s awaiting a latch of some kind as well.

IMG_4410Stuff grows like Jack’s magic beanstalk with the good soil, proper irrigation and the protection from the wind. I’ve never seen anything like it. After moving from Calgary with its challenging gardening conditions its hard to have any discipline or order. I have a tendency to plant some of everything so it’s an editing work in progress.

Here’s just a few more photos for now. I’ll revisit the garden soon when the bulbs start blooming.

The back gate is also round. You enter and come out the other side in your superman costume. This is another one of the Handyman’s inventions and used a bicycle wheel.

A pond is hidden behind the screen usually smothered in sweet peas. It’s a mecca for birds in the dry summer as well as racoons and a skunk family. The fence keeps the deer out.

The main round gate from the interior of the garden. This photo was taken before the garden was mature.

Foxglove Alba started from seed in the greenhouse. I have a collection of various foxgloves, all ordered from English seed houses.

Brick patio. Ladies head planter came from England from the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. Wish I had a few more.

The wind chime made with silverware is from a good friend. I’m in the midst of surrounding the patio with a low boxwood hedge.

“However many years she lived, Mary always felt that ‘she should never forget that first morning when her garden began to grow’.” Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden.


Looking in on the garden from one of its “windows”

The kid-sized blue chair was a garage sale find


“Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like?” … “It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine…” Frances Hodgson, The Secret Garden.

You catch a glimpse of the tree fort from the central “window”. The top cabin has a good view inside the garden. All the thyme edging was grown in my greenhouse.

IMG_2831“The Secret Garden was what Mary called it when she was thinking of it. She liked the name, and she liked still more the feeling that when its beautiful old walls shut her in no one knew where she was. It seemed almost like being shut out of the world in some fairy place.” Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden.

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