In the spring of 2008 I visited my sister and her family in Florida. My brother-in-law had turned their sandy, nondescript back yard into an oasis filled with tropical plants, building a party patio as well as some secluded seating areas. I wanted a reading nook similar to the one he made for my sister: a comfortable place to sit alone with a book or with a friend and a glass of wine.
One of my neighbors had given me dozens of 18” square concrete pavers that she no longer needed. I had used most of them as stepping stones in another part of the garden. I wondered if I use the broken leftovers to create a little patio in a dead zone of space off the center garden, where a large pine arose from a mess of tangled ivy. Four paths converged here; it needed to be a destination.
I pulled up the ivy, dug a flat pad, spread sand, and fit the broken pavers into a roughly 4’x8’ rectangle. I laid bricks to border the front of the patio and swept sand over the pavers and bricks to hold them in place. I planted dwarf mondo grass around the front and sides of the patio to help prevent the nearby mulch and pine needles from migrating onto the patio. I planted cast iron plants on one side and northern sea oats, a rhododendron and a nandina on the other. Behind the patio I planted a small, volunteer aucuba, a volunteer winter honeysuckle, and a puny-looking viburnum, moved from its original crowded and gloomy location. Two comfortable teak chairs and a matching table fit the patio perfectly. Clay pots filled with caladium, coleus and impatiens brightened the area with color. I hung wind chimes on a nearby dogwood. This is where my husband and I have a glass of wine and catch up after work. It is quiet and shady and cool.
My secret garden isn’t so secret … it’s directly in the sightline of the patio, and until the shrubbery around it grows larger the next-door neighbors can see me out there. But I like to pretend I’m hidden from the rest of the world.