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Creating Your Secret Garden

Five year old girl walking over pebbles. Sensory Discovery Walk.
Include bright colours, plants with assorted textures and scents, and music in a child’s garden room if possible to create an interactive sensory experience.

Children’s Garden

Children love playing in the dirt—they gain higher levels of confidence and positive attitudes toward healthy living when they play outdoors and connect with nature. And they have an innate curiosity about wildlife.

Including your children in your family’s secret garden project should stir their imaginations, especially when they can design an area just for them. You can teach them to help manage it and respect the environment as you develop your project. Getting your children involved is the important thing.

Thinking creatively with them, consider including the following:

  • rope climbing, sliding, and swinging;
  • an area for writing, reading, and colouring;
  • natural materials for furniture like cut logs and flat-top rocks; and
  • a wall to hang artwork with a rewritable surface section where children can draw with erasable markers.

Planting native species teach children about plant diversity and the symbiotic relationship plants share with insects, birds, and other living creatures. Annuals like sunflowers and pole beans planted from seed are easy to grow and fun to watch. Colourful plant markers with corresponding pictures in a vegetable garden remind children of what they are growing and why they need to water consistently to have a good harvest. A word of caution: make sure you research toxic plants or those that contain skin irritants and avoid using them in your design.

A sensory garden is a great fit with children and will positively influence their cognitive, emotional, physical, and creative development. Water fountains, wind chimes, and rustling grasses add natural sounds; fragrant herb plantings and mini piles of soil, mulch, and compost add scent; brightly coloured flowers, whirligigs, and garden art add visual stimulation; and buckets to bake squishy mud pies, along with a little dining table to serve guests, can make it easier to encourage a happy child gardener. And don’t forget to add a birdhouse and water dish to attract local varieties.

Garden Therapy

Grow your grandmother’s favourite poppies. Plant a seaside garden with Rugosa roses, ornamental grasses, and add beach shells and sea glass collected on your vacations. Happy memories and life ambitions can be inspirational during the garden design process; your secret garden of any size or design will surely be a magnet and a source of pleasure for all.

Gardening is a perfect way to balance mind, body, and spirit. You’ll learn patience, humility, and perseverance from gardening success and failure, and nurture your creativity experimenting with new plants and designs. So start researching, make your plan, and happy gardening!

Crystal Godfrey operates Nova Scotia-based Secret Gardens by Crystal, offering specialized garden design, consulting services, and live presentations for organizations and event shows, including Canada Blooms. She can be reached via e-mail at

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