My first Garden evolved thirty two years ago when I was newly married. In time it decoratively and practically surrounded our first home in the small coastal village of St Georges Basin on the South Coast of New South Wales. The intention of this garden was to provide a beautiful safe haven, a play and food growing space while also providing a relaxing atmosphere for our family and friends to enjoy.

Birds, lizards, spiders and insects all found their homes in our garden; it was a place that I felt was truly precious and I was grateful for the time that I could spend there. One particular part of the garden located out the front was “The Secret Garden” which could only be discovered by walking through a lovely wooden archway built by my husband Peter. Entwined through this arch was Pink Bignonia (pandorea jasminoides), Purple Hardenbergia and the incredibly fragrant Sweet Jasmine (polyanthum). This perfectly private place was generally an oval shape and was placed between two long gardens; one nearest the home and the other along the roadside edged by a Viburnum tinus hedge. The archway entrance led to a grassy area which was great for throwing down a rug and eating stretchy pizzas or hot chips with my family.

Perhaps you have a favourite place in your garden? A place to sit and relax; a place to enjoy? Mine as you have gathered was in the secret garden. To one side of this garden was a small railway sleeper seat and a solid wooden box table which was rescued from the local tip. To add to its charm a terracotta pot was placed as a centrepiece overflowing with fragrant catmint. While sitting here ideally with a hot cuppa, the beautiful cut leaf Japanese maple, underplanted with erigeron could be viewed and appreciated. Then, with the arrival of Spring would come a spectacular show from the Crab apple floribunda and the gorgeous Pink robinia as they burst into flower.

Within the Secret Garden was a stone Wishing Well built when my children were small. Every day I would cement a layer of stone placed securely around a 44 gallon drum while Peter built the side posts and paling timber roof. The final touch was the addition of the wooden bucket. This small, enjoyable and shaded area of the garden was filled with bird song, subtle colour and fragrance as well as forget-me-nots and anything else that would self-sow and look beautiful.

This garden was edged in local rock consisting largely of sandstone. The Shoalhaven area, as were many others, was once covered by an expanse of ocean. When seen closely the rocks had a multitude of fossilised shells and plants embedded perfectly capturing time. I collected the rocks over a period of around ten years in our rattly box trailer whenever the opportunity arose; on one collection day I remember being six months pregnant with our first child.

I suppose we all have different reasons for making a garden and finding a favourite space. For me, the secret garden was one of those places where I could rest my mind and body, especially on occassions in the evening when I lit candles beneath the Chinese Liquidambar. The light dancing on the leaves created by a gentle breeze and was mesmerising. Then as the daylight appeared the Evergreen Alder which our three children called the Cubby House Tree provided wonderful shade and a place for fun. These treasured moments always made me smile.