Lifestyle

Creating your own Secret Garden just takes imagination

The Compleat

Home Gardner

Marianne Binetti will appear at 2 p.m. June 13, addressing “Dirt Cheap Garden Tips and Garden Design“ at the Seike Garden at Highline/SeaTac Botanical Garden. You’ll be treated to music and artists in action at gardens on the tour. Call 206-241-5786 for tickets and information.

The first week of June is time to plant bean seeds. You can also place pots of pepper, tomatoes and eggplant throughout your landscape in the hottest spots in the garden. Add a lacy edging of Swiss chard around the border of your lawn and tuck colorful herb plants like golden oregano and tri-color sage into a rockery. Creating a secret garden of vegetables in your front yard is just one way to add fruitful surprises for both a bountiful and beautiful harvest.

An Invitation

to Visit Venice

For me, the idea of a “Secret Garden” has come full circle. I was 10 years old when I happened upon the classic children’s book “The Secret Garden” at my local library. The story of an unkempt garden, hidden behind walls that was restored by children inspired me to dig in and clean up the neglected patch of ground right outside my own bedroom window. This rock-filled, narrow site was hidden along the side of our house, accessible only through a small opening in a thorny hedge – a true secret garden, a place hidden from view that I tended to delight visitors with surprising beauty.

Flash forward many decades. That first childhood garden led to a life spent gardening, writing about gardens and reading about gardens. In the past few years it has also included traveling to gardens all over the world. But is was in Seattle two years ago that I came across a beautifully photographed book called “The Secret Gardens of Venice.” I was enthralled by the incredibly beautiful photographs but also the idea that two of my great loves – secret gardens and the cities of Italy – were joined together in images of beauty. I still regret not buying the book but then, just a few months later the title popped up again. I was attending an international bulb convention in Holland when I was introduced to a charming, Gepetto of a man. He spoke no English and my Italian is limited, but motioning to his camera he explained that he had just photographed a garden book called the “Secret Gardens of Venice,” the same book I had admired but never purchased in a Seattle bookstore.

And so it is that I learned more about the hidden gardens inside the city of Venice, growing behind stone walls and locked iron gates, covered with emerald moss in the murky dampness that defines the floating city. Then fate, destiny or just the serendipity of life appeared to plant the seed of an idea. I was invited to visit these secret gardens of Venice: just gather a group of travelers, he told me, and a private tour would be arranged.

The Italian photographer had just made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

Sunny

Greek Islands

The trip to Venice will be in October, when autumn dampness will encourage a mossy patina on the garden walls and garden art. For two days our group will explore the sites and gardens of the city. But then we will need some sunshine. So in a search for warmth, our small group will board an Italian cruise ship and leave Venice to explore the sun-soaked Greek Islands. We’ll visit ancient ruins, walled cities and the bleached-white, postcard-perfect villages of Santorinini and Mykonos. There will be an exotic garden to visit on the island of Corfu, where we’ll learn about using sedums, succulents and other drought- resistant plants. Cruising the Greek Islands in October will be a chance to bask in the sun and learn more about the Italian culture and language aboard a European cruise line. Travel to Europe is a bargain right now so join us if you would like to see the world with a group of people that appreciate gardens, new cultures, history and languages. Because we will also visit some caves and other unusual sites, you’ll need a quirky sense of adventure.

Your Own

Secret Garden

For more information about joining us on The Secret Gardens of Venice and Greek Island tour go to my Web site, www.binettigarden.com, or contact Enumclaw Travel Service at 360-825-6531. Group size is limited to 22 travelers.

If you want to create your own secret garden experience, you don’t have to travel to Europe. A secret garden is as close a your own backyard and you don’t need a stone wall or enclosing hedge to grow a personal pocket garden. Tuck a collection of sedums into beautiful pots against the sunny south side of the house or add a path of woodchips edged with ferns into a cluster of cedar or fir trees. A secret garden can be plants where you least expect them – and June is the month to get growing on the idea.

• • •

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and several other books. For book requests or answers to gardening questions, write to her at: P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, 98022. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a personal reply.

For more gardening information, she can be reached at her Web site, www.binettigarden.com.

Copyright for this column owned by Marianne Binetti.

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